Powys education removed from concern list by inspectors

Powys’ education service has been removed from a list of local authorities causing ‘significant concern’, by Estyn inspectors.

Powys County Council Leader Councillor Rosemarie Harris
Powys County Council Leader Councillor Rosemarie Harris

Wales’ education inspectors said Powys County Council had “made sufficient progress in relation to the recommendations following the most recent core inspection”.

A monitoring visit took place in October and Estyn published their findings on Friday (November 26) and removed the council from the significant concern category.

They said ‘leaders have worked well with stakeholders and partners to make strong progress against all recommendations’.

At the original inspection in 2019, inspectors raised significant concerns about the Council’s education services and issued five recommendations to secure improvements.

Estyn also placed the Council in the category of local authorities causing significant concern.

In relation to the first recommendation - to improve standards in secondary schools, and especially the performance of more able learners – Estyn said the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to assess how well secondary schools are performing

But they said the actions of the local authority to support the improvement of standards in secondary schools had been evaluated.

And it says that school budgets remain a concern – but that the council is tackling the issue.

The four other recommendations were - to improve provision for learners with special educational needs, to improve the impact of senior leaders in improving the quality of education and strengthen the scrutiny, to ensure that non-maintained, post16, Welsh-medium education and secondary education meets the needs of Powys youngsters and to improve financial management in schools and take action to address schools with significant deficit budgets.

Councillor Phyl Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Property, said: “We are delighted with this news. The findings reflect well on the combined efforts of colleagues both in our schools and the education service and I want to thank them for their professionalism and dedication.

“In the last two years, we have provided robust leadership and secured notable positive change for education in Powys and have approved and starting to implement an ambitious strategy to transform education. We have also improved additional learning needs provision for our most vulnerable learners and worked with representatives from secondary schools and other stakeholders to co-construct purposeful post-16 provision to improve learner entitlement across Powys.

“We have also developed a vision for Welsh-medium education in the county to increase the opportunities for children and young people to become fully bilingual. We have also made good progress to strengthen financial management in schools.

“The findings of this report show that we have laid solid foundations on which we can further improve the service to ensure the best outcomes for all of our learners.

“The recognition of this work is thoroughly deserved by all.”

Councillor Rosemarie Harris, Leader of Powys County Council, said: “Over the last two years, we have worked with key education stakeholders including Estyn, the Welsh Government and school leaders to take the necessary action to turn things around. It has not been an easy journey with difficult decisions taken along the way.

“It is especially pleasing given that the actions and improvements we have overseen have taken place during the Coronavirus pandemic, the most difficult period that the Council and schools has ever endured.

“Education continues to be one of our highest priorities. Today is an important milestone in our efforts to make Powys an excellent education authority and we will continue to make the necessary improvements to improve education for Powys children, placing the needs of all learners at the heart of our decisions.”

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

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