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Estyn voices concerns about school services in Powys

 
Created on 10/09/2019 @ 07:11
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Powys County Council has been heavily criticised in an Estyn report released at midnight into school services.

Many secondary schools have been branded "weak" and other education services are causing "significant concern" to inspectors.

Education watchdog Estyn said Powys County Council had not addressed some schools' financial problems and had failed to tackle the high number of surplus places.

Estyn's report also raised concerns over a high exclusion rate. 

Powys council said an action plan was being drawn up to tackle the issues.

An inspection carried out in July found there were "many areas of the authority's work" which worried Estyn.

It included school organisation, financial management, school governance and lack of action over schools causing concern.

"Although the local authority has, over many years, reduced the number of schools it maintains, the rate of change has been too slow to keep pace with the decline in pupil numbers," Estyn said.

The report highlighted the local authority's problems with reorganising schools, including having to drop merger plans for secondary schools in the south of the county.

Other areas of concern included:

§  Not enough consideration of how the council supported more able and talented pupils

§  "Inadequate coordination, evaluation and planning" for pupils with special educational needs or pupils who may need extra support

§  A "weak record" in stimulating growth of Welsh-medium education

The watchdog said Powys was the only local authority causing significant concern.

Inspectors found more pupils were choosing to go to college or schools outside Powys rather than study at sixth-forms in the county, leading to significantly reduced funding and "the narrowing of the curriculum they offer".

Inspectors also said the quality of financial management in schools had not been effectively challenged.

It meant some schools had failed to recover from deficits for many years, and in a small number of cases the deficits had grown so large it was not feasible they would recover within five years.

The authority had been too slow to use its powers, and elected members had been reluctant to take "robust-enough action", inspectors said.

Estyn does state that pupils generally make sound progress over their time in statutory education. However, the report identifies clear areas for improvement.

Rosemarie Harris, Leader of Powys County Council, said it had already started to implement improvements.

"The inspection has highlighted many strengths but we acknowledge there are areas where performance has not achieved the standards we aspire to," she said.

"We have a new leadership team in place who are already developing an action plan to address issues highlighted in the findings."

“We thank inspectors for their work, the report will form the basis of an action plan that is being developed to address areas of weakness and improve our education service. We are committed to providing the best possible education service to support our schools to give our young learners the best possible start in their lives. 

“The inspection has highlighted many strengths but we acknowledge there are areas where performance has not achieved the standards we aspire to and that the inspection has highlighted the areas that we need to improve.

“A great deal of work is already underway. We have a new leadership team in place who are already developing an action plan to address issues highlighted in the findings,” she added.

Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, Cabinet Member for Learning and Welsh Language, said: “We need to work more effectively with all our schools, our governing bodies and communities to sustain and improve performance and strengthen the education service to support our teachers in delivering excellence.

“We already have a number of very successful schools delivering excellent standards but know we have to do more to ensure that all our youngsters have the same opportunities throughout the county.

“Achieving excellence against a backdrop of severe budget pressures will not be easy but we are determined to do the very best for all our learners,” she added.

Chief Executive Dr Caroline Turner, said: “We have a good team in place to deliver the improvements that are necessary, We will be working with schools, and drawing on the resources of ERW, to ensure that we are able to quickly address the findings of Estyn’s report.

“We are committed to making the improvements that will enable the children and young people of Powys to achieve the education standards that will enable them to progress and succeed in life.”

The Estyn report can be found at www.estyn.gov.wales

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