South East Wales

Ysgol Y Deri: Concerns spark review of new special school

Ysgol Y Deri Image copyright Ysgol Y Deri

Concerns over working practices at a new special school in the Vale of Glamorgan have prompted an independent review, it has been revealed.

Ysgol Y Deri in Penarth opened 15 months ago, bringing together pupils from three other schools in the county.

Sources told BBC Wales that there were issues over staff sickness levels and low morale.

School governors said work was starting "immediately" to establish "a new and more effective way of working".

The review was carried out by Peter Watkin Jones, who previously led an inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust following concerns surrounding mortality rates at Stafford Hospital.

His findings were presented to governors on Wednesday and staff the following day.

The recommendations include new supervision and management protocols, developing "more open channels of communication between teams" and pooling health board and local education authority budgets.

Ysgol Y Deri opened in October 2014, bringing together 240 pupils from Ashgrove School and Ysgol Erw'r Delyn in Penarth, and Maes Dyfan School in Barry.

Together with the redeveloped St Cyres Comprehensive School, it is part of the Penarth Learning Community and caters for children aged from three to 19 years old with a wide range of special learning needs, including autistic spectrum disorders, as well as mental and physical disabilities and complex health needs.

Unique case

BBC Wales understands that the school has experienced high levels of sickness absence, with up to a fifth of the 230-strong workforce at the school being off sick at any one time since it opened.

Sources also flagged issues over confusion surrounding leadership, and a lack of consistency for pupils due to sickness levels.

A council spokesperson confirmed levels of sickness at the school were higher than at other schools in the county.

But they added: " Ysgol Y Deri is a unique case and the staff working at the school support the education, health and wellbeing of children and young people with very complex needs, therefore direct comparisons with other schools are an imperfect measure at best."

Responding to the review, the school's chair of governors, Tim Excell said: "The health and wellbeing of pupils at Ysgol Y Deri is looked after by a range of school, council and health board staff.

"The review highlights the challenges we have faced in bringing together a multidisciplinary team that had previously made up the workforce of three separate special schools."

Maria Battle, chair of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, added: "We are pleased that the report has now been shared with governors and staff and look forward to working with the school and the local education authority on taking the recommendations forward."

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