Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 27th September 21
Time Presentation 5.37 p.m. – 6.20 p.m. Meeting commenced 6.22 p.m.
Minutes Membership In attendance by electronic device and contributing towards the meeting quorum, in accordance with Instrument 12. (Members may count towards the quorum if they are able to be present by electronic or digital communication (including attendance by video conferencing or telephone conferencing).
A Allen (Apprenticeship Link), A. Benghiat (H.E. Link), H. Hawksworth (Academic Staff Governor, LR Campus), K. Quant, J. Rowe (E&D & LAYP Link Governor), J. Sharrock (Safeguarding & SEND Link Governor) and R. Wilson (ex-officio, Chair of the Board),
Co-opted Committee member – E. Rees (16 – 19 Student Governor)
In Attendance Members of the Senior Leadership Team:
C. Armstrong, Group Vice Principal - Curriculum Support and Business Development (GVP – CS&BD)
M. Brown, Group Vice Principal, Information & Strategic Development (GVP – I&SD)
S. McAlinden, Director, Curriculum Support (D, CS)
C. Pemberton, Group Vice-Principal, Quality and Curriculum Management (GVP – Q&CM); and
C. Sears, Director of A Level Services (DoALS)

Clerk to the Board – T. Cottee
K. Hayward, Agency Manager (AM) – present for pre-meeting presentation.

Board Members and Co-opted Committee Members present for the pre meeting Governor Development Briefing
Dr. J. Barratt, B. Greenaway, G. Mills, R. Sartain, and M. Thompson.
Apologies None.

Further to the request made at the last Committee meeting (Q,S & C Min No 34/21 refers), prior to the Committee Meeting, the D, CS and AM gave a Governor Development Briefing on the College’s arrangements for careers education, information, advice and guidance (including a demonstration of GroFar, an industry and work experience platform used by the College.)

The D, CS gave a brief explanation of how careers education, advice and guidance, work placement and employability was staffed at the College and that the College had recently employed 2 additional Team members to support students.

The AM explained that –

  • Grofar was the complete software solution used by the College to manage students’ industry placements and work experience. Before purchase, the College had considered carefully the type of package that would most benefit students and teaching staff and reduce paperwork and duplication across systems.
  • The platform enabled –
    • Students to engage easily using an intuitive mobile app. Students could also create their own placements, which supported the College’s intention to increase further the number of students taking up work placements, particularly across academic provision.
    • All stakeholders to access all key placement details at any time.
    • Health & Safety assessments to be managed and tracked.
    • Integration with the College’s MIS and CRM (REMS), Learner Record and Reporting systems.
    • Accurate and up-to-date placement tracking with the ability to track students’ progress and skills development.
    • The College’s Work Placement programme to be managed from start to finish.
    • A personal ‘passport’ for all students, which included all the student’s individual placements including details of logged hours, targets, experiences, assessments, and feedback.
  • Every student now had a named co-ordinator link for work experience. They were already active in the College this Term, talking to and interacting with students.
  • Grofar was updated daily by the Work Experience Team and students could view work experience opportunities, virtual experiences, and industry placements via the platform.
  • The student and employer feedback received by the College so far had been positive. Employers appreciated the ease of communication and reduction in paperwork.
  • The platform supported the College’s ambitions to grow its employability support through SkillsBuilder, for which the College was an ‘Accelerator College’.

At its last meeting (Q, S & C Min No 32/21 refers), the Committee had considered a report on the effectiveness and quality of the College’s career advice arrangements through achievement of the Matrix Accreditation and progress against the Gatsby Standards. Following consideration of the Report, the Committee had resolved to receive a Progress Report as a Standing Item to every meeting going forward.

At this point, those present considered the Careers and Work Experience Update Report (previously circulated) which set out progress against the College’s arrangements with respect to careers guidance and advice and progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks.

The College currently met five out of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks and those present reviewed the College’s plan to close the gaps on the remaining three. The plan had been developed with the Enterprise Co-ordinator from the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC), and a joint audit of college progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks with the CEC took place in July 2021.

As the Committee expected full achievement within the autumn term 2021, it was agreed that the following actions be taken to close the gaps, all to be completed in autumn 2021:

  1. Following the publication of the College Strategy, review the Careers Strategy, update the Careers Plan, and refresh the content on the College website referencing the new CDI framework launched in April 2021 (Benchmark 1)
  2. Board to approve the College Careers Programme (Benchmark 1)
  3. Implement a College-wide recording system of careers interventions on Unifrog (Benchmark 3). Note - In future, the National Platform, Compass Plus would automatically assess the College against certain elements of the Gatsby Benchmarks and investing in UniFrog, would ensure the smooth transition to this arrangement.
  4. Implement a virtual work experience programme in autumn 2021 for all students (Benchmark 6).

In response to a question from a governor on how the platform supported the achievement of qualifications, the AM explained that GroFar was particularly useful for students studying programmes that required formal work placements, such as Health & Social Care. However, the platform was equally useful in supporting voluntary work placement activity, and she referred to a recent project conducted with Travel & Tourism students.

In response to a question from the Staff Governor, the D, CS explained that the required number of hours spent on work placement varied between provision type; industry placements required more hours than other courses where work experience was counted as an enrichment activity.

In response to a question on how often progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks was reviewed and by whom, the AM explained that the College aimed to review progress termly and assessment was conducted through critical self-assessment.

In response to a question seeking assurance on how the College ensured disadvantaged students were able to access work placement opportunities, the D,CS explained that, regarding SEND students, the College had developed its own infrastructure, including an internship programme that supported about 10% of disadvantaged students.

Due to the increase in high needs and EHCP students, the College had increased its careers support for these students; for example, ‘ring fencing’ time with the newly-appointed Careers & Progression Adviser, which fed into the annual review and supported Preparation for Employment. The College also offered internal work experience for students who were less confident in seeking external opportunities. The AM added that the College had a Career Confident Programme for students with broader support needs, offered supported internships and apprenticeships, and worked with disability confident employers and Higher Horizons as part of the widening participation agenda. The College also supported work placement opportunities for Looked After and Experience of Care students. However, the College was looking to further improve its support in this area, and it was expected that progress would feature in future reports.

At this point, non-Committee governors and co-opted committee members withdrew.

46/21. Appointment of Chair of the Committee

Having been proposed by R. Wilson and seconded by J. Sharrock, it was

Resolved: That Andy Allen be appointed Chair of the Committee.

Andy Allen in the Chair.

At this point, the Chair took the opportunity to –

      • Welcome E. Rees, the newly-appointed 16 – 19 Student Governor to the Committee. He explained that the Committee valued the student voice and encouraged her participation and questions.

47/21. Declarations of Interest

A. Allen declared an interest as an employee of Harper Adams University.
It was noted that J. Rowe had declared on the Register of Interest that he had a child at the College and had understood when it was appropriate to declare this interest.

48/21. Minutes – 14 June 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 14 June 2021, were approved as a true record, subject to the amendment of the Link Governor titles of J. Rowe and J. Sharrock.

49/21. Matters Arising

The Chair sought assurance that all actions from the previous meeting were either on the agenda for the meeting, were being actioned or programmed on the Committee Work Plan. This was confirmed.

50/21. End of Year Review – Higher Education (Appendix – Agenda Item 6.i)

The Committee considered a report (previously circulated), setting out a review of the College’s Higher Education provision for 2020 - 2021.

The GVP – Q&CM referred to the College’s strong performance across the provision area, including –

      • Recruitment with around 200 students on degree programmes
      • Retention improved to 88%
      • 100% achievement on BA Hons Education, with 42% First Class degrees awarded
      • 5 staff gaining their full teaching qualification through PGCE/Cert Ed
      • Outstanding L4 AAT achievements
      • NSS: 87% satisfaction with teaching compared with 80% nationally
      • NSS: Overall satisfaction 79% compared with 75% nationally
      • Pearson: 100% satisfaction with course compared with 75% nationally.

The Committee commended the College’s strong performance in the Pearson satisfaction survey, particularly as it was conducted during the challenging period of lockdown.

In response to a question on why the Pearson Satisfaction survey result had returned a lower than national average satisfaction rate for ‘learning resources’, the GVP explained that this was due, in part, to a delay in importing resources from Staffordshire University, exacerbated by the lockdown.

51/21. Student Voice – End of Year Review (Appendix – Agenda Item 6.ii)

The Committee considered a report (previously circulated), setting out a review of the College’s Student Voice activities during 2020 – 2021.

The GVP, CS & BD explained that student enrichment activities for the year had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, which had disrupted the College’s extensive in-house and face-to-face enrichment and engagement programme. However, the College had offered on-line activities, focussing on supporting student wellbeing and fostering a feeling of connection to the College through lockdowns, which had been well-received.

In response to a question on how student voice was being supported this Term, the GVP explained that she had met the Student Union Executive (SUE) already and would be working with them to progress their initiatives and ideas which would be reported to the Committee.

The Clerk reported that the 16 – 19 Student Governor would be invited to meetings of the English Bridge SUE going forward. The Board Chair requested that all governors be notified of SUE meetings and given the opportunity to attend.

In response to a question, the GVP confirmed that the College had developed a Sustainability Group, managed by the Finance Director.

The Student Governor (16 – 19) left the meeting at this point.

52/21. Apprenticeships Update (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 8)

The GVP – I&SD presented a report (previously circulated) of the College’s apprenticeship provision performance for 2020 - 2021.

      • Throughout the pandemic, the College had responded to the needs of apprentices and employers to allow learning to continue. Very few apprentices were furloughed. As a result, apprentices continued to engage well with their teachers and assessors whether through online lessons, emails, or phone contact. Work continued to be set to allow apprentices to progress and some subjects, such as English and maths, were able to the continue to be examined on-campus; the intention being to give apprentices the best chance of emerging positively from the pandemic. Strategies to address gaps in practical skills created by the pandemic had worked well with most apprentices having caught up allowing end point assessments to be planned.
      • The one ongoing challenge remained the delays in External Quality Assurance (EQA) and End Point Assessment (EPA). With the level of delays affecting the whole sector there had been high demand for both services from Awarding Organisations and EPA Organisations. Some sector areas were now proving very problematic to get EQA sign off or bookings for EPA. These delays would result in achievements taking place in 2021/2022 rather than in 2020/2021, as planned.
      • Apprenticeship recruitment for 2020/2021 ended well. Whilst the number of apprentice starts was below target, in line with the national picture, the College had continued to be flexible and start cohorts of apprentices throughout the year where there was sufficient demand.
      • Early apprenticeship recruitment for September 2021 was looking positive, with planning for extra groups to be delivered from January 2022. Trade Union apprenticeships were continuing to recruit, and further cohorts planned for October and January.
      • Working with the ESFA systems, especially non-levy employers now using the Apprenticeship Service, had become more problematic. Teams were currently working through all data-locks and conflicts to ensure all monies were paid by the ESFA for the 2020/2021 year.
      • Staffing had been a challenge; recruitment of Assessor and IQAs in most areas had been difficult. However, the College had been able to recruit and was training existing assessors to be IQA qualified. Over the next few months all experienced assessors would have gained their IQA qualification.
      • The ESFA had published the QAR Business Rules for calculating achievement rates for 2020/2021. There had been some changes since the previously published data, in 2018/2019, that would impact the calculations.
      • The Apprenticeship Condition of Funding had been lifted during the year and Minimum Standards continued to be monitored closely to ensure there was no further breach.

The Committee discussed the College’s continued difficulty obtaining EQA and EPA appointments which would delay some achievements into 2021/2022 and acknowledged that, as the College was also awaiting certification of some qualifications/frameworks; this would affect the Overall Achievement Rate
In response to a question from the Committee Chair on what the College was doing to support apprentices affected by the delays and how the College was supporting apprentices to achieve in resits, the GVP explained that the College acted on feedback from the EPA organisation and assessors if an apprentice failed EPA. Tutors then spent time with each student, the intention being that they received more targeted input to support them to achieve the EPA. Students also received targeted support to keep their practical skills honed, whilst awaiting the resit, to further support the College’s expectation that students would achieve their EPA on a retake.

With respect to the removal of the Apprenticeship Condition of Funding by the ESFA, the Committee acknowledged the removal of the Condition of Funding and that this was due to the impact of the robust measures put in place by the College to improve achievement rates.

53/21. End of Year Review – Academic & Vocational Provision (Confidential appendices – Agenda Items 7)

The Committee received a report (previously circulated) on the College’s Academic & Vocational provision for 2020 – 2021.

Academic Provision

This report provided a brief overview of the qualifications achieved for the completing cohort via the Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) process as well as the latest set of progress grades (PG4) for continuing students issued in late June 2021.

      • The TAG submission and internal verification process had required input from different teams across the College and extensive effort on behalf of the teaching and support staff.
      • As anticipated, the TAGs had produced higher outcomes when compared with exam results in 2019, though slightly lower than the CAGs of 2020, in terms of high grades.
      • PG4 was delayed to avoid any confusion with the TAG process. Year 1 end of year assessments had been completed for all exam-based subjects which would inform predicted grades for UCAS and course target setting conversations at the quality review meetings now being held across the College.

In response to a question on how the College was preparing students for the current uncertainty over examination arrangements for 2022, the DoALS explained that teaching teams were reviewing schemes of work and assessment plans to ensure that any gaps were addressed and that revision skills were actively taught during the year, on the assumption that this cohort would have normal exams in summer 2022.

The DoALs provided a verbal update to the Committee on the number of student appeals against Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) received. Whilst the number of appeals received was low, appeal outcomes would improve the College’s grade profile slightly. The Committee acknowledged the immense administrative burden that had been placed on teachers and support staff and expressed its thanks to staff for their hard work and commitment to students.

Vocational Provision

The Committee recognised the strong performance across vocation provision, particularly compared to National Rates.

      • The College had continued its positive trend of performing strongly above National Rates in Maths and English.
      • The College had a strong, well-established, and professional Team in this area, with skills in supporting student progression.

54/21. Safeguarding & E&D Link Governors Reports (Appendix – Agenda Item 9)

The Safeguarding Link Governor presented her report (previously circulated) and gave the following verbal report –

      • Keeping Children Safe in Education – September 2021 - all governors were required to sign a Declaration that they had read Parts 1 & 2 of the 2021 Guidance. To date, all Declarations had been returned, except one, which was expected imminently.
      • It was important that colleges considered how to reflect sexual violence and sexual harassment in their whole school or college approach to safeguarding and in their child protection policy. The National Online College resources on this subject had been signposted to all governors. The Link Governor expected all governors to be included in any briefing arrangements being made for staff and the Clerk confirmed that the resources that had been made available to all staff would be sent to all governors, with the expectation that they evidenced that they had accessed and read the material. The D, CS confirmed that the College was experienced in managing safeguarding issues of this nature and had in place established procedures in line with current requirements, including reporting to the Police.
      • As part of her Programme of Work, she would undertake her first site inspection to the English Bridge Campus on 30 September 2021.

The Safeguarding Link Governor referred to a recent opinion from the Association of Colleges on how much/which parts of KCSIE governors should read, because colleges had charitable status, and needed to follow the Charity Commission’s expectations on this. She sought the Committee’s views on how the Board should best evidence the expectation that governors were fully informed and able to provide evidence that they had oversight of the College’s safeguarding arrangements.

The Committee agreed that, in addition to supplying evidence through the Declaration, all governors should receive regular training and should demonstrate that they understood their responsibilities. The Clerk confirmed that all governors received an Annual Briefing from the D, CS as part of the Safeguarding Annual Report. In addition, this year, the D, CS had produced a video for all staff, highlighting the key points to the 2021 edition of KCSiE. It was agreed that this resource be shared with all governors, with the instruction that they should evidence that they had viewed the video. It was also agreed that all governors should read other safeguarding guidance and best practice. The National Online College resources had been signposted to all governors. In addition, the Board Chair requested the Clerk and GVP to arrange an opportunity for all Board members to receive a further Development Briefing. The GVP also offered an opportunity to meet with her for a detailed briefing and demonstration of the College’s recording system to any governor who wished to seek further assurance.

Action: Clerk and GVP to arrange

At the request of the Safeguarding Link Governor, the GVP gave a verbal update on Safeguarding at the College for this Term.

      • The Safeguarding Policy had been revised and updated to reflect the changes in KCSiE 2021.
      • Schools had improved their communication and submission of transition information to the College, so it was better prepared to support new students with pre-declared support needs.
      • As anticipated, the Safeguarding issues arising from the lockdowns were presenting themselves, particularly anxiety and mental health issues.
      • Students were aware of where to locate the Safeguarding Support Teams.
      • The College anticipated welcoming a number of unaccompanied young asylum seekers. The Committee sought assurance that the College was ready to receive these students and that as Looked After Young People, they would be appropriately supported. The D, CS explained that, as it had experience in this area, the College was well-positioned to support and safeguard these students, including providing additional support to mitigate the impact of specific risks arising from their experiences, such as access to trauma counselling and advice on how to stay safe from criminal exploitation. In response to a question asking if the College had planned tutorials for all students to build awareness of young asylum seekers, the D, CS explained that the College was currently putting together the E&D tutorial programme. The Committee suggested that this topic be incorporated into the programme and this was accepted.

The E&D Link Governor reported that he was in the process of arranging a programme of visits and meetings for 2021 – 2022, including attendance at the E&D Committee and would be meeting with the Clerk on 29 September 2021, to discuss how the Board received assurance going forward.

55/21. Risk

The Committee considered the strategic risks relevant to its remit and agreed that they had been discussed within the meeting.

56/21. Date of Next Meeting – 29 November 2021.

The meeting concluded at 7.25 p.m.