1. Mr R W Gough gave a verbal update on the following issues:-
2017 Examination results – examination results for summer 2017 had now been verified. KS2 results had been the best ever, with a substantial overall increase since last year. Kent’s performance was above both the national and south east averages, and the national attainment gap at KS2 between children in care and their peers had narrowed. These results were a great credit to the children in care and the support given to them by Virtual School Kent.
More detail on KS4 results would be available in March as these were more difficult to verify but it was known that one UASC had achieved five passes at A* and one student with SEND had achieved four GCSE passes. KS4 results were also more difficult to compare with peers, due to the changes made to GCSE examinations nationally and the impact of these upon children in care in particular. To help them manage placement moves and the resultant disruption to their education, children in care had relied upon their final result being based partly on their course work rather than solely on examination results, but the course work element had now been removed. More change was due to come next year, which would add to the difficulty of comparing the overall picture to that of previous years.
In terms of achievements at 16+, twenty young people had taken up university places in autumn 2017 and one VSK apprentice had passed NVQ Level 4 in Maths. There had been much progress since 2014/15 in addressing the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). The percentage of young people aged 16+ who were not in education, employment or training had fallen from 53% in 2014/15 to just over 38% in 2015/16 and 17% in 2016/17 and was expected to fall below 14% by the end of the 2017/18 academic year.
UASC update – as at 7 November, there were 344 UASC and 813 care leavers in Kent, but a substantial change was expected in January when many UASC would turn 18 and attain care leaver status. So far in 2017, there had been 180 new arrivals (compared to 388 in 2016 and 948 in 2015) and the rate was staying low and steady. So far in 2017, 253 UASC had been placed with other local authorities via the national transfer scheme (NTS), although some local authorities were finding it difficult now to accommodate the numbers of UASC being sent to them. Mr Gough explained that he chaired the South East Strategic Partnership on Migration, which was monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the NTS. Mr Gough and Paul Carter had recently met the Immigration Minister to discuss the funding issues faced by the County Council as the frontline authority hosting UASC new arrivals.
Celebration events – VSK/16+ ; these were important in acknowledging and celebrating young people’s achievements beyond their academic career, eg commitment and contributions to the Children In Care Council. This year’s awards event had taken place on 16 October at Canterbury cricket ground and had been an excellent, well-attended event. The Foster Carers awards event had taken place on 4 October in Folkestone and had given an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the work of Kent’s foster carers in caring for, supporting and championing children and young people in care.
2. Mr Gough responded to comments and questions about examination results, including the following:-
a) the excellent KS2 examination results were welcomed but disappointment expressed about the KS4 results and the difficulties arising from the national change in assessment at KS4. However, as all pupils in the south east had experienced the same changes, it should still be possible to compare the attainment of children in care to that of their peers. The attainment gap between the two was still large and needed to be reduced. Mr Gough explained that it was not yet possible to make a comparison nationally of KS4 results, due to the changes to the assessment process made in the last year;
b) Mr Doran added that KS4 achievements had been easier to support when VSK started, and Kent’s results used to be above the national average. He agreed with Mr Gough that children in care relied on being able to use course work modules towards their final examination mark and would now feel the loss of this benefit. He added, however, that the performance of children in care had dipped when changes had been made previously, but had recovered once they settled into a new regime, and there was every reason to believe that performance would recover again. In response to a question about the extent to which the performance of children in care could be compared to that of their peers, Mr Doran explained that it was difficult yet to see a clear picture and start to make a comparison; and
c) Mr Gough emphasised how much of an achievement the KS2 results were as this area had previously been weak in Kent. Young people achieving good results at this stage were doing so against sharply-rising competition.
3. It was RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted, with thanks, and that a review of academic attainment be made after March 2018, when more information would be available.