Agenda item

Raising Educational Achievement in Lambeth Schools 2014-15

Minutes:

Cathy Twist, Director of Education, Learning and Skills, and Feyisa Demie, Head of Research, Schools Research and Statistics Unit, introduced the report, which looked back at the previous year’s achievement and attainment in Lambeth’s schools, and made the following points:

 

·         The report provided an analysis by gender, ethnicity, English fluency and mobility (noting that Lambeth had a particularly mobile population) and also discussed the achievement gap

·         The report was generally positive, with attainment above the national average at Key Stages 1 and 2

·         GCSE results were also above average and had been for some time; however, this progress was not reflected so much post 16. It was noted that the post 16 cohort was generally quite different due to pupils changing schools to go to 6th form, or pursuing vocational or other pathways

·         Portuguese pupils remained among the lower attaining groups but were making progress

·         The picture regarding Black Caribbean pupils – another traditionally underachieving group – was varied, with the gap narrowing at KS1, no further progress at KS2, and GCSE results falling back slightly. Some good progress had been made in recent years but this cohort did remain a concern

·         African pupils were at or above the borough average and were the highest achieving at GCSE

·         Somali pupils were previously underachieving but now in line with borough averages

·         White British pupils achieved well at KS1 and KS2, and had improved at GCSE level over the past 2-3 years

·         Girls outperformed boys in every year, and for all GCSE indicators

·         Fully bilingual pupils were consistently the highest attainers; this demonstrated that becoming fluent in English was a good indicator of future success for those who spoke English as an additional language (EAL)

·         Pupils eligible for free school meals did better in Lambeth than nationally, though were still below the borough average

In response to questions from commission members, the following points were made:

·         The underachievement of Black Caribbean pupils was a national issue and had been for decades. In order to explore the reasons for this and identify the key issues, a study was underway involving around seven Lambeth schools. Over 120 teachers, heads, parents, governors, pupils and educational psychologists had been interviewed, and focus groups had been held with first and second generation Black Caribbeans. The detailed findings were expected to be published in November or December 2016 but preliminary recurring issues identified included poverty, single parent families, low wage factors and perceived institutional racism related to disaffection with the system. There would be two reports – one on underachievement and the other on best practice – and there were plans to run a national conference post publication. The reports would contain recommendations for Lambeth, central government and schools, and would be available for next year’s education commission to scrutinise

·         Black Caribbean pupils were also disproportionately represented in the exclusions data (see also item 6)

·         A report was produced by the Head of Research in 2002 on raising achievement in Black Caribbean pupils; this had influenced national government thinking, and it was hoped the new study would do the same. Good practice identified and taken on board from the 2002 report included involving family members in a positive way, ensuring positive role models and influences in curriculum materials and reflecting the black and minority ethnic (BME) population in staff

·         While noting the national context, 25% of the Lambeth population was African or Caribbean and this made addressing chronic underachievement in the borough an even bigger issue

·         Regarding GCSE results, these needed to be treated with a certain amount of caution as the way they were marked and assessed, including grade boundaries, was changed in 2014

·         There were concerns that the new curriculum did not reflect the diversity of London and there were signs that the performance of a number of groups in the capital may deteriorate as a result. The cause of the drop in Black African achievement over the past year may also be curriculum related, though this was uncertain. Analysis of the outcomes of curriculum change on gender and ethnicity would be carried out and could be reported next year in order that trends could be tracked

·         Officers believed that the top three things Lambeth had done to raise standards were: having shared high aspirations for everybody, including the less well performing pupils; intolerance of failure including the challenging of those who were underperforming and better leadership; and having a very inclusive approach to development of school leaders, into whom a great deal had been invested. EAL pupils – who made up 46% of the school population – were also being well supported in Lambeth

·         There were different perspectives on the development of school leaders and it was acknowledged that things were not perfect but a great deal of work was done to ensure they were representative of the borough population. It was important to spot potential future leaders at an early stage and ensure they were appropriately developed via secondments and apprenticeships to take on leadership roles

·         Officers’ three main concerns regarding educational achievement were: changes in methods of testing and assessment – whereby the onus was more on final tests rather than coursework – negatively affecting the highly mobile Lambeth population, with its significant proportion of EAL pupils; the potential for the national policy landscape to lead to the expansion of some schools at the expense of others, thus increasing inequalities and division; and the ability of Lambeth to work coherently together with all the schools in the borough as more of them became largely independent of the local authority

·         It would be useful to know how Lambeth compared to other boroughs regarding post 16 / 6th form achievement, and whether an increase in provision could help, if possible

The Cabinet Member for Children and Schools summed up discussion on this item by emphasising that Lambeth should be showing the way regarding tackling the underachievement of Black Caribbean pupils and suggested that, following the publication of the research at the end of the year, the borough could seek to pilot any resultant new initiatives; this could also be discussed at Overview and Scrutiny at an appropriate time. Regarding the comments on institutional racism, the Council and its partners needed to show leadership on this issue at every level and this included improving the diversity of the workforce, including more black police officers. She also echoed the concerns expressed regarding the decreasing influence of local authorities in education.

 

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