Agenda item

The Committee will receive and consider the annual report on educational standards and attainment in Buckinghamshire. 



Mrs Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Mr Tolis Vouyioukas, Corporate Director for Children’s Services

Mr Simon James, Service Director, Education

Mr Gareth Drawer, Head of Achievement and Learning


Councillor Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills thanked the schools for their work over the last six months and reported that all the schools were currently open; only two schools had had to close for a short period of time.  16 schools had been mildly affected by Covid-19 and there had been 39 reported cases in 85,000 children.  Councillor Cranmer highlighted that the information in the report related to educational outcomes for children and young people in Buckinghamshire for the academic year 2018-2019 and did not include this year’s GCSE results as they would not be reported nationally. Exclusions were still below the national rate and, nationally, Buckinghamshire schools still had a higher than national rating of good and above.


Mr James also formally thanked the schools and advised that the purpose of the detailed report was to provide the Select Committee with updated information on educational standards and attainment.  Mr James highlighted the following key points:

  • Buckinghamshire was ranked 6th in the country for good level of development in the Early Years Foundation Stage; the inequality gap had decreased and a higher percentage of Buckinghamshire pupils with an EHCP achieved a good level of development compared with national data.
  • Key Stage One levels for reading, writing and maths were above the national average.  Pupils with an EHCP achieved above national attainment levels in Reading at Key Stage 1. Pupils with SEN Support also achieved attainment levels above the national in reading and writing. 
  • Combined attainment in Reading, Writing and Maths for pupils on SEN Support and those with an EHCP, was above national at Key Stage 2.
  • Key Stage 4 results were above the national, including those with SEN.  Looked after children were also above the national average in reading and writing.
  • Exclusion rates were positive.
  • The percentage of pupils in Buckinghamshire schools rated as Ofsted good or outstanding had increased to 90% in 2019. The national average was 85%.
  • The percentage of children in Buckinghamshire Early Years settings rated as Ofsted good or outstanding had increased to 96% in 2019 and was in line with the national figure.
  • Disadvantaged children remained the highest priority; focus and a clear plan of action would continue to narrow the attainment gap.


The following points were raised in discussion:


  • Following a query on whether the high exclusion rates for Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) pupils would be addressed; Mr James confirmed that this had been included in the action plan.  Mr Gareth Drawmer, Head of Achievement and Learning, added that BAME, Pakistani heritage and disadvantaged children in rural areas were disproportionately represented and that these three groups were at the heart of the work being carried out.  It was agreed that the outcome of the forthcoming conferences on Narrowing the Gap and monthly workshops be included in the next report to the Select Committee.
  • The Chairman requested an updated figure on the number of children missing from education and whether there had been an increase in elective home education since March 2020.  Mr Drawmer stated he did not have the precise figures but confirmed that there had been an increase in elective home education.  The number of children missing in education had also risen, partly due to people moving in and out of the area whilst the schools were shut and the time lag in the information from the schools.

ACTION: Mr Drawmer

  • It was noted that there had been a noticeable increase in the attainment gap across all age groups and it had been reported in the media that the gap was likely to increase further due to Covid-19.  Mr James assured the Committee that this issue was the biggest priority and an action plan was in place.   It was agreed that a report be provided at a future date setting out how the action plan/strategies had performed.

ACTION: Mrs Sutherland

  • A Member stated that it had been a continuous problem to narrow the attainment gap in Buckinghamshire; he felt the report did not adequately reflect the fact that many children came into the county to be educated in grammar schools.  There was also concern that many disadvantaged children would have missed out on a large part of their education due to Covid-19.   Mr James stated that the reporting style and details contained in the report were in line with the best practice required by the Department for Education (DfE).  Mr James advised that many disadvantaged children were now in receipt of a laptop; schools had worked to ensure the right interventions were in place and public exams had been delayed by three weeks to allow vulnerable children to progress. 
  • Mr Skoyles reiterated how well the schools had done during Covid-19 and asked whether any data was available on the Side by Side Programme to show the difference the resource had made to the intervention schools.  Mr Drawmer stated that there had been improvements in the latest results for secondary schools; however, the results had been teacher assessed rather than by exam so a direct comparison could not be made with previous years.  It had not been possible to make a judgement on 2019-2020 on primary school results as all formal exams had been stopped from early years through to Key Stage 2.  The Side by Side Programme was introduced in 2018-2019 and initial feedback had been very positive and demonstrated the schools had improved their outcomes.  Mr Skoyles advised it would be useful for the Select Committee to see the results data and trends.  Mr Drawmer clarified that the funding for this project was provided via a grant from the DfE.

ACTION:  Mrs Sutherland 

·       Ms Pease reported that it was noticeable how happy the children were to be back in school and that the impact on the children’s mental health and education could not be underestimated.  There would be a number of children in Buckinghamshire who would have been borderline for a grammar school place and, who having missed six months of school, and perhaps not had the capacity to be tutored, would be looking for a place in a non-selective school resulting in filling the grammar school places with children from out of the county.  Would the local authority be monitoring the potential increase of requirements for non-selective places in schools within the County from September?  Mr James advised that monitoring was required, and was reviewed monthly, to ensure accurate forward planning, particularly with the impact of the 11+.

  • Ms Pease stated that the Government had recently released a statement saying the allocation of laptops to schools had been reduced and asked whether any provision was in place to ensure that all children could access a laptop if schools were closed.  Mr Drawmer reported that the number of children who required a laptop was smaller than initially thought.  The Service was working on the fact that there were enough laptops in the system but the situation would be monitored carefully.  
  • Concern was raised over families who might only have one laptop between three children.  Mr James explained that the government scheme provided laptops to specific groups of children e.g. those with an allocated social worker.  Most schools now had an allocation of laptops and could provide a laptop to children if need be.  Regular meetings took place with school leaders to ascertain if there were particular children in need and Mr James was confident that the needs of the disadvantaged children would be addressed.
  • A Member asked for information to be provided in the future of how children from a low economic background had fared during the pandemic.  Mr James stated that the country was still in unprecedented times and it was unknown how the children would fare; the Service was doing everything it could to support the children and, once life was back to normal, the service would take stock and look at the lessons learned for the future.   Mr Drawmer added that there was focus on self-regulation in the pupils to develop strategies for resilience.  The Service was working carefully to manage the impact on this cohort of children and additional funding was available for disadvantaged children in terms of tutoring and support.
  • In response to being asked if the Council had taken steps regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on the capability of SEN children taking the 11+; Mr Drawmer stated that SEN children had appropriate adjustments made to access the tests. 


The Chairman thanked all the officers, school staff, head teachers and social workers on behalf of the Select Committee for their hard work.


RESOLVED:  The Children and Education Select Committee NOTED the report and the action plans it contained.

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