Using Alps from a Local Authority (LA) Persepctive Alps case study - view all

Download the PDF

The context

Wakefield Council is located in West Yorkshire. The Wakefield district has nine academies and colleges delivering A levels or equivalent qualifications – three of these are Ofsted graded as having outstanding post-16 provision, including the district’s sixth form provider, NEW College Pontefract. A further five, including the general FE college, are graded as good. Seven of these centres purchase their centre Alps reports and the LA Alps report through a LA cost and data sharing agreement.

We introduced this agreement in 2011 in an effort to support centres with data analysis and application. The data sharing agreement enabled a centre to purchase its Alps reports at a discounted price through the LA, and also have access to the full LA reports which detail AS, A level and BTEC data by centre and by subject. An Alps joint partner feedback meeting, training, and a client meeting are annual events.

In 2013, Wakefield performed below the England average for state funded schools and colleges in all reported A level measures, except for those A level students achieving at least 1 A*-E, where Wakefield out-performed the England average by 0.3%. It was at this point that the LA and its post-16 partners, through a Post 16 Leaders Group, agreed there was a need to work closer in partnership to drive improvement and make greater use of the data that was being received from Alps.

Following publication of the 2013 results, and the announcement that school sixth forms would receive separate graded judgements from September 2014, individual centre feedback meetings were scheduled and attended by LA Officers, Alps staff and senior leads in each centre, as well as the centre’s head of post-16. Each meeting focused purely on the individual centre’s performance, including areas of strength and areas for development, and how the data could be interpreted and applied by subject, student, tutor and gender to facilitate improvement. LA officers followed up each meeting with notes of support and a full data overview. The analysis and explanation of Alps data at student level contributed to NEW College being awarded their Ofsted Outstanding grade.

A post-16 conference, organised by the LA included input from Julian Appleyard, Principal at Rochdale College, on how this outstanding college utilised Alps. This was followed up by a post-16 staff visit to the college. After the conference the number of post-16 centres agreeing to buy in to the LA data sharing agreement rose, from five in 2013 to seven in 2014. All seven were invited to the LA Alps feedback meeting where the LA Alps reports were discussed from a district perspective, triggering interest and discussion between post-16 leads about where subject delivery was good, what exam board was used, and why some centres performed better than others.

Following a presentation by Alps on the 16-19 reforms at a Post 16 Leaders Group meeting, subject networks for staff due to deliver linear A levels from September 2015 are being planned with continuing support from Alps as to how the reforms may impact on student outcomes.

Results in September 2014 evidenced that Wakefield has closed the gap and exceeded the national average point score (APS) per A level entry which as a grade has increased from C- in 2013 to a C in 2014.

Wakefield has also closed the gap in the following measures:

• 3A*-E grades or better at A level or Applied single/double award A level
• Grades AAB or better at A level or Applied single/double award A level
• Grades AAB or higher in at least 2 facilitating subjects
• Grades AAB or better at A level, all of which are in facilitating subjects

How did Alps help during the LA Ofsted inspection?

Wakefield Council’s arrangements for supporting school improvement were inspected in 2013 and 2014. Presenting the district Alps data, and being able to explain it and how the LA works with post-16 centres to facilitate improvement, enabled the council to specifically evidence:

• The extent to which the LA knows schools and other providers, their performance and the standards they achieve and how effectively support is focused on areas of greatest need
• The impact of local authority support and challenge over time and the rate at which schools and other providers are improving, including the impact of the local authority strategy to narrow attainment gaps
• How the local authority promotes the effective participation of all 16 and 18 year olds in education (training, apprenticeship)
• How effectively or otherwise the local authority uses pertinent data and management information to inform actions within the area
• The quality of the support that the local authority has led, brokered and commissioned (and monitored) to enable schools to improve standards and outcomes for children and young people

What do post-16 providers like about the LA Alps arrangement?

“The LA Alps cost and data sharing agreement has allowed NEW College to benefit from some individualised feedback on our annual Alps reports supported by the LA. Originally we were not going to take up the offer of feedback as our data team felt they fully understood the reports. However, after some encouragement from the LA we did take advantage of the Alps feedback and found it extremely informative and useful. The outcome of the first meeting was for Alps to produce the college a mixed report which put us in a much stronger position for the visit from Ofsted. It also provided some of the senior management team a better understanding of the different ways in which we can use Alps. We have benefitted from the LA commitment to facilitating an improvement in our understanding and use of the data.

Having access to the LA report has also allowed us to identify providers across the district that have some exemplary subject practice. We use this to liaise with other post 16 providers in order to share good practice etc. amongst the providers. This has certainly encouraged collaboration between institutions.”

Richard Fletcher, Vice Principal, NEW College, Pontefract

“As a centre we have found the authority lead on Alps through Post 16 Leaders to be a very positive one. The yearly training session put on by the authority has helped to keep our post 16 staff on top of changes afoot and the importance of value added. We have received very proactive and personalised support, and the follow up by the LA from our Alps feedback meeting has been effective in stimulating intervention with key curriculum areas.”

Justine Tipler, Vice Principal / Director of 6th Form Education, Ossett Academy

“Wakefield maintains an overall grade of 5 – satisfactory to good. We know that we have outstanding and excellent provision within the district and also that we have some areas for improvement. But we are confident that through working in this collaborative manner and continuing with our cost and data sharing agreement, we will secure improved outcomes for all our level 3 learners and meet our LA duty to promote high standards and be champions of educational excellence.”

Kay Shaw, Lead Officer School Improvement, Learning Transformation & Skills, Wakefield Council