Feedback on School Visits
To receive Members’ feedback on recent school visits.
The Chair reported that Members of the Subgroup had recently visited Manchester Communication Academy, Abbott Community Primary School and Ashgate Specialist Support School, which, she advised, were all fantastic schools.
Members discussed the visit to Manchester Communication Academy, highlighting the recording studio, the breakfast club, the activities available, community engagement and the inclusive nature of the school. Members also discussed the challenges of open plan buildings, with the Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND commenting that most schools built as part of the Building Schools for the Future project had been built as open plan with flexible walls but that most had since made changes to create contained classrooms. In response to a comment from the Chair, she informed Members that the school was currently making some changes to address a budget deficit.
Members discussed the visit to Abbott Community Primary School, highlighting the pro-active headteacher, the breakfast club, which had improved punctuality, the links to the local community and the library. Members also discussed the proposed expansion of the school, the challenges that small schools faced when they expanded rapidly and the importance of the headteacher and the Council having an adequate voice in the process. The Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND outlined the process for this and how the Council and the school leadership team were involved. She reported that many schools had now expanded so the learning from these experiences would be utilised to better manage future school expansions. She advised the Subgroup that she would pass Members’ comments on to the Director of Education and the Head of Access.
Members discussed the visit to Ashgate Specialist Support School. The Chair commented that it was an excellent school and that she had been very impressed by the progress that the children had made by Key Stage 2. She reported that the staff understood the pupils’ needs and that the children learnt to manage their own behaviour. The Subgroup discussed whether some children who were being supported in mainstream education would be better placed in special schools. A Member commented that, wherever possible, children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) should be placed in mainstream schools with additional support but that there were some children for whom a special school was the best option. The Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND informed Members about the work to increase the number of special school places in the city, while noting that places were being filled as soon as they became available. A Member commented that, while the funding for the High Needs Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant had now been increased, it had previously been frozen for several years. The Subgroup discussed the co-location of special schools and mainstream schools, noting that in some cases this was working well but in others the schools did not engage with each other.
The Chair informed Members that she had written to the schools to thank them for accommodating the visits.
To note the oral reports.