Powys school services pose 'significant concern'
Many secondary schools in Powys have been branded "weak" and other education services are causing "significant concern" to inspectors.
Education watchdog Estyn said Powys 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.
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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.
However the report the local authority had "a clear vision for the future".
Rosemarie Harris, leader of Powys 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."