Anglesey schools: Special measures call from Estyn

The Welsh government is planning a Recovery Board to take over the running of the island's education system.

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Education services on Anglesey have been put into special measures after inspectors found them "unsatisfactory".

The council, which is being run by commissioners after management concerns, must draw up an action plan.

Anglesey council said it supported the findings and said it was already making good progress.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said he was "very concerned" at the quality of education services offered by councils.

Mr Andrews and Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant said the recovery board would advise Welsh government commissioners who are running Anglesey at present and "challenge and support" the council over the education services. It will report directly the the government on a monthly basis.

Mr Andrews said: "There can be no doubt that this is a highly damning report. The education service within the authority is in an unacceptable position and urgent action is needed to address the issues raised."

Mr Sargeant added: "Recovery in education needs to go hand in hand with the corporate recovery which the commissioners are leading.

"We are pleased that all concerned fully support our approach and have contributed effectively to developing it."

The report by Estyn was critical of standards, low attendance, planning, and the quality of leadership at Anglesey.

Under performance

Anglesey council has been run since March 2011 by commissioners appointed by the Welsh government amid concerns about how the authority is being managed.

Start Quote

Estyn is of the opinion that the authority falls into the follow-up category of requiring special measures”

End Quote Estyn report

The report on the quality of Anglesey's education services for children and young people follows an inspection carried out in May.

Inspectors judged the authority's performance to be unsatisfactory on a number of grounds:

  • Standards for children and young people were below what could be expected at all key stages
  • Attendance rates in secondary schools were "unacceptably low"
  • The school improvement service was inadequate
  • Not enough progress had been made in planning for school places
  • Operational leadership in the delivery of education had not driven improvements in areas of under performance, and schools and officers had not been held to account
  • Business planning and risk assessment processes had not been robust enough to identify and address the slow pace of progress in education services and schools

SEVEN RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Raise standards in all key stages and make sure that all learners who can do so achieve functional literacy by the end of key stage 2
  • Plan more effectively with the relevant professionals to improve school attendance rates
  • Establish sound business-planning, project-planning and risk-assessment processes to professionalise the operational delivery of education services
  • Plan better efficiencies in the allocation of resources for the lifelong learning service
  • Secure more thoroughness and consistency in requirements for self-evaluation both operationally and strategically
  • Take action to reduce surplus places; and formalise and strengthen performance
  • Source: Estyn

The inspectors also judged the authority's capacity to improve to be unsatisfactory because of a history of under performance and a slow pace of action.

Estyn issued a set of seven recommendations to tackle the problems, including raising standards in all key stages and to make sure that all learners who can do so achieve functional literacy by the end of key stage 2.

In response, Anglesey council said it would do all it could to improve its education services.

'Green shoots'

Chief executive Richard Parry Jones said it fully supported Estyn's recommendations.

"They correspond to those areas already identified by the education service as key to driving forward the quality of education services on Anglesey.

A full interview with Education Minister Leighton Andrews, who says he is concerned about the quality of education provided by councils generally

"We acknowledge the need to increase the pace at which improvements are made, and are confident that we are already making good progress."

Mr Parry Jones said a robust action plan has been drafted and will be presented to council to address all seven recommendations.

"We are pleased that Estyn has recognised the green shoots of improvement in many areas but accept that these need time to develop and demonstrate their impact on learners.

"This year's assessment and academic results will be a key indicator for us in further identifying the distance travelled."

Council leader Bryan Owen added: "The response to Estyn's report has been swift and decisive, and the action plan will be led by the senior leadership team in partnership with senior officers, schools, elected members, the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association), Welsh government and other key stakeholders.

"We will work with the Welsh government to put matters right, and we are pleased that the commissioners' responsibilities have been broadened to make this happen."

Grading of local authority education LAs assessed under new system since 2010

Source: Estyn, after 14 inspections

Excellent

None

Good

Carmarthenshire, Conwy, Denbighshire, Neath Port Talbot, Newport

Adequate

Cardiff, Flintshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wrexham

Unsatisfactory

Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent, Pembrokeshire, Torfaen

No Welsh local authority has been judged "excellent" since Estyn changed the way it inspected schools two years ago.

Blaenau Gwent's education services are also in special measures.

'Cause for concern'

Mr Andrews said he was "very concerned about the quality of educational services being provided by local government".

"I think it gives us very great cause for concern," he told BBC Wales.

"I think it's evident that the fragmentation of local government in the 1990s into 22 local education authorities was destructive and has not helped build a strong education system in Wales."

He added that the Welsh government was "moving towards" regional consortia, where councils will work more closely together to improve schools from September.

"We will be reviewing the work of consortia from the autumn and will look at the role of local authorities running education.

"There could be further action down the line."

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