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Torfaen’s education department has ‘new culture’ in response to critical Estyn report

The Civic Centre in Pontypool
The Civic Centre in Pontypool Credit: Cwmbran Life

Torfaen’s councillor in charge of education says a “new culture” has developed in the department following its response to a critical Estyn report in 2022.

Inspectors found the council is “a local authority causing significant concern” due to shortcomings in secondary school performance

Councillor Richard Clark, executive member for children, families and education, gave an update to yesterday’s full council meeting in Pontypool’s civic centre, on the department’s progress to achieve Estyn’s four recommendations

  • Improve outcomes for learners, particularly in secondary schools.
  • Strengthen performance management.
  • Strengthen self-evaluation and improvement planning processes and the link
    between them.
  •  Improve strategic leadership of learning and ALN.

‘They tell you exactly how it is’

He said: “A new team is in place and a new culture has also developed within the department…The relationships are now in place. We do challenge the EAS, they do work with us and we offer a better service. Within the department, there is a more collegiate approach where people are interested in other sections of the department and they look at each other’s team plans and learn and gain from that. Everybody is pulling in the right direction and I think as a result when we have the Estyn monitoring visit that will be even more success to us.”

Cllr Clark said he had visited every school in the borough and spoken to headteachers and other staff and added: “They shoot from the hip. They tell you exactly as it is and the relationships with our schools now, to me would appear the strongest they’ve ever been.”

He said data is now being used better by the department and schools are being offered support quickly if needed.

Jason O’Brien, the council’s strategic director (Children and Families), said that “leadership, governance and operational” changes had been made in the education service since the Estyn report.

Cllr Giles Davies, Abersychan Ward, said: “It’s quite a positive report which is really nice to see. We’ve been through some dark times with education in the past and I think since Richard (Cllr Clark) has taken over as executive member for education we’ve seen some real positive changes within the team and I’d just like to thank Richard and the team for all the progress made so far. It’s really encouraging and it’s a real good positive going forward.

‘A going over’

Cllr Rose Seabourne, Fairwater Ward, said the education and overview scrutiny committee members were giving the education officers a “going over” at every meeting with around “25, 30 questions” each time to check on progress towards improving. She said any members of the public are welcome to submit any questions to the committee to be asked at future meetings.

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Torfaen’s education department has ‘new culture’ in response to critical Estyn report