The Leader introduced the report, advising that the EAS Business Plan 2021/22 was developed in collaboration with Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent. The Business Plan would support all schools and settings, ensuring access to a range of professional learning and bespoke support, which is aligned to their own schools’ improvement priorities.
Full consideration was given to the current climate in which schools and settings were operating. The business plan would build upon the good practice demonstrated during this challenging time (including blended, flexible learning), and support schools and their learners in the recovery phase to secure high quality teaching, learning and support for pupil well-being.
The EAS Business Plan included Newport-specific educational strategic priorities, which were aligned to Estyn recommendations. These ensured that local and regional school improvement priorities were connected in order to have the best opportunity for success.
The Plan went through a robust consultation process with Head teachers, Governing Bodies, Cabinet Members, Scrutiny Committees and young people. The plan will be submitted to Welsh Government later this month.
The plan will be monitored regularly to track its delivery and impact. This will be reported termly through the Joint Education Group (JEG), which includes the Chief Education Officer and Cabinet Member for Education in each of the five local authorities. The EAS Company Board, with representation from each local authority, will also report termly.
At this point, the Leader welcomed Ed Pryce, Assistant Director of the EAS, to describe the overall ambition and eleven key priorities set out within the plan.
Ed Pryce reminded Cabinet that the EAS was owned by the five local authorities and was our school improvement service and was not an independent company.
Because of the meaningful data the annex was not included but the EAS were working with partners to have more useful data to retrieve from schools rather than the end of stage data during this recovery phase.
It was critical that we returned with positivity and learned lessons with partners from what had happened over the last year.
Extensive training for over 200 school governors had also taken place over the Easter period. The service reached school leaders and practitioners in a way that had not been done before. Collaboration was key for this result.
Ed Pryce did not go through each of the 11 priorities as they reflected the five strategic priorities as also discussed at Performance Scrutiny Committee – Partnerships.
The EAS also ensure that schools using blended learning had the appropriate networks in place, and were continuing with the curriculum for Wales at the right pace.
The Finance elements of the plan saw that the delegation rate would remain at 94% and above, with small element of LA contribution.
Sarah Davies, EAS added that the relationship between themselves, schools and Local Authorities were a great strength and would continue to work together in the best interest of all learners, families and communities in Newport. Schools were a positive place and EAS were looking to build on and improve on the relationships which had been developed with families and pupils.
The Deputy Chief Education Officer considered the Business Plan presented at Cabinet was comprehensive plan and evidence based and was therefore confident it would help schools recover. They key thing was to assure that children were safe to return to school when they opened next week. It was hoped it would be an enjoyable experience and good summer with wellbeing and learning at the forefront.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
Councillor D Davies, thanked the EAS for their support for governors this year with the online meetings. The training, advice and support had been continuous to ensure that governors could do their carry out their work efficiently.
The Deputy Leader considered that the plan was always a detailed document, but this year was exceptional with some buzzwords mentioned such as partnership and positivity. As we move away from the pandemic, there will be a push in blended learning and back to normal schooling. The Deputy Leader was also pleased to see the needs of vulnerable children being addressed. Going forward, it was expressed that there is now no need for children to have time off with the remote facilities in place.
That Cabinet were satisfied that the Business Plan enabled appropriate support and challenges for schools and that it addressed the areas for improvement that have been identified within Newport’s Education Strategic Plan. Therefore, cabinet approved the EAS Business Plan 2021-2022.