Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee
Date 6th December 21
Time 5.30 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), 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 members – A Creighton (HE Student Governor) and 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)
K. Hayward, Agency Manager (AM) (Present for item 61/21)
S. McAlinden, Director, Curriculum Support (D, CS)
C. Pemberton, Group Vice-Principal, Quality and Curriculum Management (GVP – Q&CM); and

Clerk to the Board – T. Cottee
Apologies K. Quant and C. Sears, Director of A Level Services (DoALS).

At this point, the Chair took the opportunity to –

    • Welcome A. Creighton, the newly appointed H.E. Student Governor to the Committee. He explained that the Committee valued the student voice and encouraged her participation and questions.
    • Sent the Committee’s best regards to the DoALs who was currently unwell.
    • Express the sincere thanks of the Committee to the GVP – Q&CM, who would be leaving the College at the end of the Term.
    • Thank all Committee members and officers who had supported him during his time as a governor, Committee member and Chair of the Committee, as this was his last meeting.

57/21. 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.

58/21. Minutes – 27 October 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 October 2021, were approved as a true record.

59/21. 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.

60/21. Safeguarding Link Governor Report (Appendix – Agenda Item 8)

The Safeguarding Link Governor presented her report to the Committee (previously circulated). Since the circulation of her report, the College had received a full inspection from OFSTED and she was hopeful of a positive outcome.

At the September meeting, there had been further discussion around how the Board should best evidence the expectation that governors be fully informed about the latest Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) (beyond reading the document) and be able to provide evidence that they had effective oversight of the College’s safeguarding arrangements.

In response to this discussion, the following additional activities had taken place –

      • All governors and co-opted committee members had evidenced that they had –
        • watched two videos, issued to all staff, on key reminders around safeguarding systems and processes in College and core elements of the KCSiE and on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment; and
        • read advice, also circulated to all staff, on how to deal with a situation where nude or semi-nude images of children have been shared.
          This was an important area for the College given the increased focus on this theme nationally and the importance of raising the awareness of governors, staff and students.
      • The Board had received a briefing from the GVP, C & BD on the College’s safeguarding arrangements for the new Academic Year, including a demonstration of the College’s safeguarding records management system. This had been very well received and had led to an important discussion of trends and how the College responded.
      • The D, CS would present the Annual Safeguarding Report to the Board in December 2021.
      • The GVP, CS & BD had also extended an invitation to individual governors to visit the College and receive an additional briefing on the safeguarding records management system. The He Link Governor would meet the GVP this Term.

As a result of these additional activities and her own activities so far this Term, which had consisted of a blend of formal meetings and three informal learning walks at each site, the Link Governor considered that there was a broad and shared understanding of the changes to KCSiE and the duties and responsibilities with respect to safeguarding throughout the Board. As a result, all governors were well equipped to exercise effective oversight of safeguarding.

Following the learning walks, her overwhelming impression was that there were very effective safeguarding procedures and teams in place at all three sites. There was a strong safeguarding culture and a feeling that safeguarding and student safety being paramount throughout the College. Although the culture of how the College operated was different across the three sites, there were common safeguarding structures clearly in evidence. Students spoken to felt safe, although awareness about the precise details of the College’s safeguarding arrangements varied, as would be expected so close to orientation for new students, and she expected this to improve, as new students became more familiar with the College. Every single member of staff spoken to also provided a high degree of assurance.

The Link Governor had requested the GVP – CS & BD to provide a verbal update to the meeting –

      • The College currently had 305 live safeguarding cases logged, an increase on the previous year. However, this reflected the increased student cohort and the impact of the improved transition information received from feeder schools, which had alerted the College to potential issues, for which it was able to prepare. 1,332 students had had a meeting with a member of the Safeguarding Team this Term. This was slight increase from the same period last year and could be as a result of the work done to raise awareness amongst the cohort of sexual abuse and sexual harassment and how the College could support.
      • The Safeguarding Committee would be chaired by the D.CS going forward and new members of teaching and support staff were being sought to join the Committee for this academic year.
      • The College was developing a Safest College Strategy and the GVP had commenced meetings with staff and students prior to developing the Strategy further.

The Committee Chair enquired if the College’s risk assessments for sports facilities, graduation ceremonies and other public gatherings had been updated in light of the proposed Protect Duty and the Government’s guidance to owners and operators of public venues.

The GVP explained that the College’s relevant Risk Assessments were currently under review in light of the proposals. The Committee expected a progress update would be reported to the next meeting.

61/21. Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance – Termly Report (Appendix – Agenda Item 4)

The Committee considered the latest position regarding the College’s arrangements in respect of careers guidance and advice and reviewed progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks (previously circulated).

The College currently met five out of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks and as the Committee expected full achievement within the autumn term 2021, it reviewed the College’s plan to close the gaps on the remaining three to the expected deadline.

      • 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) – a draft schedule of the Strategy would be presented to the Senior Leadership Team on 29 December 2021.
      • Implement a College-wide recording system of careers interventions on Unifrog (Benchmark 3). This had been implemented. All full-time students had a UniFrog account and the platform was being used to record student engagement in careers activities, as well as assign them tasks which would support their progression plans.
      • Implement a virtual work experience programme in autumn 2021 for all students (Benchmark 6). This had been implemented. All students had received a vWEX programme booklet, differentiated by course level and vocational or academic pathway and had been given dedicated time to work through the course. Initial student feedback had been positive, with 100% stating they felt more prepared for work experience as a result of completing the course.

The AM provided a further verbal update –

      • there had been 3,300 careers interventions since the start of Term, including careers talks, Find Your Future and the HE Fair. As a result, of this strong engagement, students were able to talk positively to OFSTED inspectors.
      • The College’s Careers Programme had been subject to a Governor Learning Walk and, as a result, the College was now working with Shrewsbury Museum to develop some work experience opportunities.

In response to question on whether the College had a duty to provide careers advice to adult part-time students, the AM explained that the College offered careers advice to all students, including HE and part time adult students. However, improving further the College’s approach to ‘influencing the influencer’ to embed careers advice within programmes would be included in the Careers Improvement Plan.

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 College’s Careers & Progression Adviser, which fed into the annual review and supported Preparation for Employment. The E&D Link Governor would take forward a discussion on EET best practice at his next meeting with the D. CS.

In response to a question, the AM confirmed that the College was able to interrogate the careers and work experience activities students were engaging with.

The Clerk to the Board referred to the Careers & Enterprise Company publication ‘Careers Education – A Guide for College Governors’ (previously circulated) and referred the Committee to the section on questions for governor bodies to ask of the College leadership. The Committee discussed whether the Board should appoint a Link Governor specifically for careers and work experience in addition to the termly report and seeking assurance through the Learning Walk Programme. The Committee agreed to request the Search & Governance Committee to consider the matter, as the Committee Chair was currently the Apprenticeship Link Governor and was due to leave the Board at the end of the year and this presented an opportunity for a review.

62/21. Analysis of the Student Leaver Student Survey 2020 - 21 (Appendix – Agenda Item 5a)

The Committee considered a report (previously circulated) setting out an analysis of the Student Leaver Survey 2020 - 2021.

This year’s survey had covered first year students only as it was considered that the survey would add confusion to the TAG information returns from students. As a result, there were a reduced number of returns (705).

The GVP – Q&CM reported –

      • There had been a four percentage-point increase to 94% of those that agreed that they had been encouraged to achieve their target grade compared to 2020.
      • There had been a two percentage-point drop to 91% of those that agreed that they made progress in lessons since 2019. Considering the difficult year, this was a good outcome and demonstrated student and teacher engagement with online learning; however, the Committee agreed that this should be an item for development.
      • There had only been a one percentage-point drop in students that agreed that their work was regularly assessed, showing that the use of Teams assignments and electronic submission had enabled assessment by teachers to continue effectively during this disrupted year.
      • 91% of students agreed that the feedback helped them improve which was a four percentage-point increase from last year.
      • There had been a three percentage-point increase to 95% in the number of students that agreed that they had been treated fairly and with respect.
      • 92% of students agreed that the resources provided by their subjects supported their achievement.
      • 98% of students agreed that they felt safe in College. Where students confirmed they did not feel safe in College, there was a compulsory text box to explain why they did not.
      • 91% of students knew who to contact in College if they did not feel safe, an increase of two percentage points since 2019.
      • The number of students agreeing that they could access resources had decreased by two percentage points to 95% from 97% in 2019 and reflected the difficulty in accessing campus due to the pandemic.
      • 85% of students agreed that they were satisfied with the social spaces, a decrease of one percentage point since 2019. In response to a question, the D.CS reported that the College was currently working on proposals to create more multi-functional student social spaces at the English Bridge Campus.
      • The percentage of students agreeing that they were happy with the range of enrichment activities had increased to 92% from 83% in 2019, which was a very encouraging picture given the pandemic disruption to face to face activity. However, the Committee noted the lower satisfaction percentage across the HE cohort. The HE Student Governor observed that this may be due to the nature of the majority of HE students, who were mature and part-time and therefore not inclined to participate in additional enrichment activities.
      • The number of students that would recommend the college to a friend had increased to 94%.
      • Satisfaction data broken down across protected characteristics would be reviewed by the Equality & Diversity Committee.

The Committee reviewed the resulting Action Plan and expected to receive progress reports against the actions going forward.

63/21. Autumn 2020 Student Induction Survey – Progress Review of Action Plan (Appendix – Agenda Item 5b)

The Committee reviewed progress against the Autumn 2020 Student Induction Survey Action Plan (previously circulated).

The GVP – Q&CM reported that the Academic Leadership Team had some more work to do to incorporate further reminders in their Induction Planning to ensure that students were aware at their induction how their course would be assessed. In addition, the ‘side by side’ online tutorial on radicalisation would be renamed.

The 2021 Student Induction Survey results were currently being analysed and the Committee expected a report at its next meeting.

64/21. Complaints and Compliments 2020 – 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 5c)

The GVP – Q&CM reported that, in 2020-21, the College had received 70 formal complaints compared to 41 in 2019 – 20. The largest number of complaints received this year was predominantly a diverse range of Covid related concerns and complaints received mainly in Autumn 2020 Term; however, there appeared to be no clusters or common threads of concern. However, students were always encouraged to come forward if there were any issues of concern. The College had moved away from a defensive position when receiving a complaint, to considering any complaint as feedback to improve the College’s service to students. The Committee supported this approach. There had been 85 compliments received in 2020-21, compared to 63 received in 2019-20.

The Committee agreed the recommendations arising from the report, namely –

      1. To continue the detailed communications to students, staff and families with the latest Government guidelines and Covid updates to ensure clarity where appropriate and when there are changes.
      2. To continue to address student behaviour in Induction and to continue throughout the year through the Curriculum Leader and all teaching/progression staff and tutorials to keep reminding students of expected behaviour in College and the local community (including drop off and pick up areas). The Principal/CEO will also lay out his expectations in his welcome speech.
      3. Tutorials to include reminders throughout the year of road safety, respect to peers and local businesses staff tied in with British Values.
      4. Ensure that the College continues to promote its “zero tolerance” approach to bullying and continue with investigations to any allegations of bullying.
      5. Complaints are used as a vehicle to improve, with summary overview presented to Governors, ALT and SLT.

64/21. Student Voice Update

The GVP – CS & BD provided a verbal update, as follows –

      • The Equality & Diversity Committee agreed to share the results of the 2021 Student Leaver and Student Induction Survey with the Student Pride Group. Members of the Group had also met with the OFSTED inspection team to share their experiences of College.
      • The Student Friendship Group would be renamed the Lunchtime Club and was now established with its own Teams page where students could find information and communicate with each other.
      • The Debate Club had been running successfully since the end of September.
      • Students had held their first charitable fundraiser, “Beat Cancer Day”, with the return of the cake sale and donations going to Macmillan, Breast Cancer UK, Sarcoma UK and the Teenage Cancer Trust. The next fundraiser was a Christmas Jumper Day to raise money for Save the Children and Sarcoma UK (The student’s charity).
      • The first round of Student Union Executive and Rep meetings had been held with a good turnout at each campus. The student presidents had met with the GVP afterwards, to ensure that points raised received swift feedback. The Safeguarding Link Governor confirmed that she planned to attend one of the next meetings.
      • The Internal Audit service was currently conducting an audit of Student Voice and the report would be presented to the Audit Committee.

The GVP reported that to date, the College had received just under 1,000 applications for support through the College Bursary Scheme, double for the same period in 2019 – 2020 and it was expected that the budgeted provision would be fully used this year. The Student Union Executive had also raised the issue of student hunger and the potential impact on students’ ability to learn and concentrate. The Committee expressed concern at this and sought an update. The GVP explained that the College had introduced a ‘cashless’ system across its food hubs, which had removed the stigma of Free School Meal vouchers and was now looking to further enhance the FSM offer, to ensure that eligible students received a nutritious, filling meal at College.

65/21. HE Access & Participation Action Plan Update (Appendix – Agenda Item 6a)

The Committee reviewed the Higher Education Access & Participation Plan 2020 - 2021 (previously circulated). The Committee noted the revised presentation of the Plan, which now featured RAG ratings against Plan actions.

The GVP – Q&CM explained that the Government had set new expectations on access and participation and the revised Plan would be submitted in February 2022.

In response to a question on how the College was encouraging young people leaving care to access higher education, the D, SC explained that the College focussed on raising the aspirations and finding positive progression routes for its LAYP cohort. Going forward, universities would also be required to set new ambitious targets to support students throughout their time at university by reducing dropout rates and improving progression into high paid, high skilled jobs. This would provide a challenge to the College, as it had a narrow HE offer and a relatively small number of LAYP students who could realistically progress to HE. Therefore, the College continued to work with partners to highlight its higher education offer.

66/21. HE Autumn 2021 Consultative Overview (Appendix - Agenda Item 6b)

The Committee reviewed the outcomes of the consultatives conducted in the Autumn 2021 term and progress against issues raised.

67/21. Office for Students (OfS) Update

The Clerk to the Board provided a verbal update as follows -

      • The OfS had published its Annual Review which featured the assertion that all students should expect a good quality experience of higher education.
      • The OfS and the Higher Education Statistics Agency had been working to improve the way data about care experienced students was captured, as part of its ongoing collaboration with universities, colleges and third sector bodies to improve support for care experienced students.

68/21. Equality & Diversity Link Governor Report (Appendix – Agenda item 7)

The Equality & Diversity Link Governor presented his report (previously circulated) and reported that –

      • He had arranged half-termly meetings up to Easter 2022 (on 10 January and 15 March 2022) with the E&D Committee Chair.
      • He had asked the College to follow up some queries about how E&D was reflected in the student tutorial programme and had observed that, in the future, it would be useful to explore the consistency of support and provision for adult learners, particularly given the challenges around starting dates.
      • In his meeting with the E&D Committee Chair, discussion had centred around establishing the role of protected characteristics ambassadors within College and the role these could play in raising awareness of equality amongst students and staff. He had also discussed work to strengthen the curriculum offer to reflect E&D through curriculum content choices in order to broaden and deepen students’ understanding and this again would be an area to review in the future.
      • He had attended the two Governor Learning Walks this Term. He commented that participating in the learning walks was a most useful way of engaging with staff and students and picking up how the curriculum itself was being developed and how the College embedded opportunities to celebrate diversity.
      • The E&D Committee had met on 15 November 2021 and, in addition to the membership, the meeting was attended by two College students and a member of the teaching staff, who provided a report on how she embedded E&D issues into her teaching. The students provided quality input and ideas into the meeting, particularly on a discussion about how to engage students with protected characteristics in further work on the results of the Student Survey June 2021, to understand levels of satisfaction with the College.

The Committee had also discussed –

      • The progress on the protected characteristics ambassador programme.
      • An update on how the College was working with partners on the key strategic aim in the HE Access & Participation Plan to recruit care leavers to higher education pathways.
      • Progress & attainment for students with protected characteristics, SEND and LAYP. He would report back on the outcome of the College’s analysis, once completed.

The Student Governors left the meeting at this point.

69/21. Progress Grade Period 1 and Quality Review (Confidential Appendix – Agenda item 9)

The Committee noted that the Academic Provision Period 1 Report would be incorporated into the Period 2 Report.

Vocational Provision

The GVP – Q&CM reported that

      • For year 1 students (within the total overall data) there were large numbers of GCSE students that impacted the potential “high grade” overall outcome, so it was more realistic to review at course level.
      • GCSE maths was predicting higher than the 2019 pass rates at 50% and English was predicting at 35.9%.

The Subject Quality Review meetings had been rescheduled as a result of the OFSTED Inspection and would take place before the end of Term. The Committee expected interventions to support those subject areas showing below targets for meeting grades to be discussed at these meetings.

70/21. Apprenticeship Update (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 10)

The GVP – I&SD presented an update (previously circulated) of the College’s apprenticeship provision.

      • Apprenticeship recruitment for 2021/2022 had been strong and above target. This was subject to the normal challenges of retention and achievement of apprentices; however, these had both improved in the last couple of years.
      • Trade Union apprenticeships were continuing to recruit with further cohorts planned for spring 2022.
      • A cohort of carpenters and a cohort of gas engineers were planned to start in January 2022, following continued demand from employers.
      • Qualification Achievement Rates (QARs) for the end of 20/21 had ended at 60%, against an estimated national average of 55% (provided by AoC MIDES Data). However, directly delivered apprenticeships, achieved at 70%.
        71/21. Risk

The Committee considered the strategic risks relevant to its remit and agreed that they had been discussed within the meeting. In addition, the Committee had discussed the risk to student health and learning experience as a result of hunger during its discussion on student bursaries.

72/21. Date of Next Meeting – 24 January 2022.

The meeting concluded at 7.20 p.m.