Posted: Wed 28th Jun 2023

Efforts to improve teaching standards in Torfaen hampered by strikes, says council

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jun 28th, 2023

Education inspectors are due to make at least two further visits to Torfaen to assess how the council is responding to a critical report they issued. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

But the council has warned efforts to ensure the quality of teaching has been impacted by industrial action by head teachers that has been ongoing since February. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Torfaen is the second Gwent council to highlight the impact of the action short of a strike being taken by heads after Monmouthshire said non cooperation by school leaders meant it couldn’t provide assurances to councillors on school peformance. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

As part of the action heads are refusing to undertake additional work or do so outside of school hours and keeping interaction with inspection body Estyn to a minimum. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A council report stated: “Action short of strike has negatively impacted on the ability to evaluate the quality of teaching in individual schools and impact of support provided.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Estyn condemned Torfaen Borough Council as “a local authority causing significant concern” due to shortcomings in secondary school performance in an inspection report last year. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Since then the council, along with the Gwent Education Achievement Service, has been working to improve education, and support offered to schools, with the council having produced a Post Inspection Action Plan to guide its activity. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Andrew Powles, the council’s deputy director of education, said inspectors are next due to visit the authority in January and then again in June next year. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

He told the council’s Education Overview and Scrutiny: “They will then determine whether to proceed with further monitoring visits to look at all the recommendations.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

He said the most recent inspection was this June when inspectors looked at how the council has addressed its strategic leadership of education and the provision of additional learning needs. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In January they will assess progress on improving outcomes for learners, particularly those in secondary schools, while in June next year they will consider how the council and schools have responded to the need to strengthen performance management and self-evaluation and how that links to planning improvement. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The comment that the ability to evaluate teaching has impacted by industrial action was made in a report for the committee under the heading on self-evaluation and planning improvement. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In response to Estyn’s first recommendation, that outcomes for learners be improved, the committee was told that “low attendance continues to be a significant issue in many schools”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The committee has said it will keep Estyn’s four improvement recommendations on its work programme, so that is updated on progress, for the coming year. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Cwmbran Fairwater Labour councillor Jayne Watkins said: “I’m happy with the progress made so far but agree we need to keep it on our monitoring for the next year.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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