Parent Council Representatives’ Meetings May 2011




Overview of Key Issues covered in Meetings with Parent Council Representatives on 25, 26 and 31 May 2011

[NB – the undernoted issues were not necessarily all covered or covered in the same depth at all three events]

1          Welcome

Neil Logue, Director of Education, welcomed Parent Council representatives to what were well attended events.  Neil emphasised that these meetings were intended to be largely workshop-based with the key aim of sharing information, good ideas and emerging good practice.

2          Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – Ken Edwards, Acting Principal Quality Improvement Officer

Ken Edwards gave comprehensive presentations in relation to recent developments.  The two presentations (one primary and one secondary) provided (a) an up to date overview of Curriculum for Excellence and how it impacts on learners, (b) a summary of key areas of progress in 2010/11 and (c) the next steps planned for Angus schools in session 2011/12.  The secondary presentation also offered an insight into the planned curriculum architecture for Angus secondary schools from 2013/14 onwards.  Considerable preparatory work is currently underway in this area.  [Please note that there are two presentations, one for Primary and one for Secondary, please click on the link to access].  Parent Council Reps Primary CfE KE and Parent Council Reps Secondary May CfE KE.

Key issues raised in the workshops across the 3 evenings were as follows:

  • parents would welcome a better overall sense of what CfE is and what it means for their children in terms of content, coverage and learning approaches – all described in plain accessible language
  • this expectation is linked to a wish to have sufficient information from schools to be able to support their children’s learning at home (what content is being covered?, how are basic numeracy and literacy skills being taught? etc)
  • parents would welcome the opportunity to see and experience how learning is changing as a result of CfE
  • all schools need to be proactive in inviting and engaging parents in a range of ways that will allow them to see how their children’s learning experiences are changing
  • some parents still have anxieties about transition arrangements P7 – S1
  • parents would like a better overall sense of how their children are progressing through the broad CfE levels
  • parents of secondary pupils want more precise information about the broad general education provided in the S1-S3 phase and about the proposals for the Senior Phase covering S4-S6
  • the number of SQA course options available in S4 needs to be shared and explained to allay anxieties about the senior school curriculum possibly being diluted
  • anxieties about the first generation of pupils to take the new CfE exams in 2014 and a wish for related assurances.

 3         Assessment and Reporting – Gregor Robson, Quality Improvement Officer

Gregor Robson’s presentation addressed key CfE assessment and reporting issues.  It covered aspects such as how assessment supports learning within Curriculum for Excellence, why we assess, what we assess, when we assess and how assessment is undertaken. With respect to reporting, Gregor identified the types of reporting that will be experienced in the course of a school session and who the audiences for the ‘report’ might be.  He emphasised the importance of parental engagement in a child’s learning.  The presentation concluded with an explanation of the Curriculum for Excellence levels and an explanation of the terms ‘Developing’, ‘Consolidating’ and ‘Secure’.  [Please click on the link to access this presentation].  CfE Reporting and Assessment Presentation.

Key issues raised in the workshops across the 3 evenings were as follows:

  • the education service will support the development of P7 Profiles which reflect national expectations, almost certainly drawing on a web-based pupil tracking system currently in preparation [see final bullet point below]
  • in time, these profiles will offer parents information about their child’s progress which can be accessed at the time and place of their choosing (they may eventually replace year end reports)
  • parents offered a mixed picture of the ways in which teacher comments in pupil reports have been written – parents feel that comments are often too bland and fail to convey a sense of their child and how exactly they are doing
  • parents need and wish more explanation of new CfE assessment approaches in jargon-free plain English
  • parents also want clearer information about their own child’s progress; their strengths and their weaknesses – honest and constructive reports rather than guarded (‘PC’) comments are what parents want to receive
  • schools need to engage with parents to assist them to achieve a better understanding of the revised curriculum – in plain English
  • Head Teachers need to ensure greater consistency in the quality of reports prepared by teaching staff
  • On Track with Learning (OTWL) is a web-based system which is currently being developed by Angus Council and North Lanarkshire Council, the system is designed to track, profile and record pupil progress.  It will capture a pupil’s progress throughout the school session, and will allow pupils to see clearly how they are progressing.  It is intended that, over time, parents will have secure online access to their child’s OTWL profile.

 4          Religious and Moral Education – Colin Nicol, Quality Improvement Officer

Colin’s presentation drew on a Scottish Government advice note, published in February of this year, about the place of Religious and Moral Education within Curriculum for Excellence.  The advice note reaffirms the statutory duty on schools to provide RME and importantly stresses the place of RME as one of the core curricular areas within CFE.  The note emphasises the important contribution that RME can make to the development of the four capacities – ‘successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens’.  National advice is that, without this element of the curriculum, children and young people, will not gain the rounded education envisaged by the new curriculum.  [Please click on this link to access this presentation].  Presentation on Religious and Moral Education

Key issues raised in the workshops across the 3 evenings were as follows:

  • the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 continues to impose a statutory duty on local authorities to provide religious education in Scottish schools as an entitlement for all learners (approximately one hour per week)
  • this national expectation and legal duty were reaffirmed in recent Scottish Government guidance (February 2011) which replaces and updates previous guidance issued in 1991.  The most recent advice reflects the aspirations of Curriculum for Excellence
  • parents have a right to withdraw their child and for the child to enjoy an alternative and meaningful learning experience
  • it was confirmed that, in addition to learning about Christianity and related beliefs and traditions, RME makes provision for learning about and respecting other religions as well as non-religious belief systems
  • religious observance events are intended to be inclusive opportunities to allow a school community to express and celebrate its shared values
  • religious observance activities must allow for pupils from various faith backgrounds, to take part with integrity and to gain something worthwhile from the experience
  • Angus schools are well supported in the delivery of RME by hard working and dedicated teams of Chaplains.

 5          Expressive Arts and PE – Maxine Cottiss, Quality Improvement Officer

 Maxine Cottiss gave the following overview of key developments:

  • the wide range of musical activities available to Angus pupils in and beyond the formal curriculum
  • the considerable success of Angus bands and orchestras
  • the entitlement to 2 hours of quality PE for all pupils,  3-18, was shared – it was noted that all schools are expected to deliver this entitlement
  • all primary schools are working towards one hour of physical activity per day – additional to PE within the curriculum
  • the work of schools needs to be complemented by parents encouraging and supporting their children to be active at home; young people’s families are the biggest influence on  healthy lifestyles
  • reference was made to challenges which some secondary schools occasionally experience in relation to the regular involvement of girls in PE activities
  • the work of Active School Coordinators to extend and support the promotion of sport and PE and their notable successes were highlighted.

 6          Operation of the Parent Council Blog

Angela Dunlop provided a very helpful overview of the contents of the Blog and its operation.  A range of very welcome suggestions was received across the 3 evenings, resulting in the following updates to the Parent Council Blog:

  • three new categories have been created, ‘Primary School’, ‘Secondary School’ and ‘Both Primary and Secondary Schools’
  • a Factfile Page has been created and four new Factfiles have been added
  • a new Finance Page has been created which shows all the finance documents available to Parent Councils and the 2011-2012 budget letter, with accompanying notes, which was issued to Secretaries on 18 May 2011
  • new distribution lists from some Parent Councils have been added so that all members of Parent Councils can receive the link to the Blog and the updates 
  • new links have been added under Curriculum for Excellence to RME and to a CfE communication toolkit for use by schools in informing parents about the new curriculum
  • a new page ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, has been created (Parent Council members should feel free to add any questions you may have)
  • comments on the Discussion Board from Bryan Knight of Carnoustie High School Parent Council seeking the thoughts of other Parents/Parent Councils
  • one school newsletter has been added to the Blog.  [NB – we would encourage Parent Councils to share their newsletters and information bulletins via the Blog]

 7          Deployment of Support Staff in Schools

In response to an enquiry about the proposal by another local authority to use support staff to provide primary teachers with their non-contact time, Neil Logue advised parents that all primary pupils will continue to be taught by teachers for the full pupil week (25 hours).  Classes will continue to be shared by teachers.

8          Behaviour Management Guidelines

Susan Duff advised parents that arrangements would be made to place on the Council’s website and on the Parent Council Blog a ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ advice document in relation to positive behaviour strategies.  It was noted that this document has a strong focus on the use of ‘restorative approaches’ which are designed to support pupils, staff and parents to work together to find solutions to challenging behaviour and to move beyond related difficulties.

9          School Estate

Craig Clement gave an overview of how priorities for improvement works are identified as part of the Council’s School Estate Strategy.  The strategy draws closely on individual School Estate Management Plans which outline the condition and suitability of each school.  Consideration is also given to demographic changes and to the availability of financial resources.

Angus Council has an excellent record of investing in the School Estate, illustrated by the recent construction of Seaview Primary School Monifieth, Isla Primary School and extensions to Webster’s High School and Monifieth High School.

Regarding future projects, the key priority in the primary sector is a new school in the West of Arbroath (being phase 1 of the Arbroath Schools Project whose aim is to improve/replace all schools in Arbroath).  The priority in the secondary sector is to replace Brechin High School at a cost of approximately £24m, £14m of which will be funded via the Scottish Government/Scottish Future’s Trust.  It was noted that the government element of this funding will now be on a revenue basis rather than capital – an approach similar to that adopted for funding the Forfar/Carnoustie Schools Project.

10          Web/Email Provision in Schools

It was agreed to consider exploring the possibility of dedicated web/email facilities for individual Parent Councils.  Angela Dunlop undertook to liaise further with Corporate IT colleagues and Craig McKay of Andover Primary School Parent Council in order to explore if and how this understandable interest could best be addressed.

11       Budget Information

It was noted that information about devolved school budgets for 2011-2012 had been issued to Parent Council secretaries on 18 May 2011.  Craig Clement was happy to confirm that arrangements would also be made to issue that letter to all Parent Council chairpersons.

12       Schedule of Autumn Meetings

 Brechin, Forfar, Montrose and Kirriemuir Primary School Parent Councils – Tuesday 25 October 2011, 7.15 – 9.30pm, Strathmore Primary School, Forfar

Arbroath, Carnoustie and Monifieth Primary School Parent Councils – Wednesday 26 October 2011, 7.15 – 9.30pm, Woodlands Primary School, Carnousti

 All secondary school Parent Councils – Wednesday 2 November 2011, 7.15 – 9.30pm Carnoustie High School

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