Call to scrap Wales’ school improvement funding system

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

A teaching union is calling on the Welsh government to scrap its system of funding schools needing improvement through consortia and to fund schools directly.

The National Education Union Cymru (NEU) said it was time to “call time” on the system, while other unions have asked politicians to look at it again.

The criticism comes after the latest colour categorisation of schools showed that a small number appeared to be “stuck” in the worst rating and others had dropped down – although overall the ratings show more schools have gone up and supporters state the consortia are having a “positive impact”.

Wales has four schools improvement consortia, which receive £139 million a year from the nation’s education budget.

David Evans, the NEU’s Wales secretary said that the fact that the number of schools in the red category – eligible for up to 25 days support – remains stable “shows that it’s time to call time on the consortia model”. He continued: “The so-called improvement agencies actually cause hard working education professionals in our schools extra pressure by focusing on ‘challenge’, rather than the support which would be welcome.”

The Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, and NASUWT Cymru have asked for the situation to be reviewed.

Tim Pratt, ASCL Cymru director, said: “The problem is the way the consortia operate is they have one single person who goes into a school and works with it. If that person, for whatever reason, misses something, that can cause problems. I don’t think the consortia need to be scrapped but there should be a good, hard look at their work.”

In a joint statement the four consortia said: “Schools and clusters continue to build their capacity to self-improve and are becoming more resilient.”

Roger Jeavons, chair of the South East Wales Education Achievement Service (EAS), told the Western Mail: “Successive Estyn inspections of the EAS have recognised that good progress is being made. The EAS is accountable to the five local authorities and is scrutinised through a robust governance structure.”

Gareth Thomas, chair of GwE, which covers North Wales, said: “Nationally since 2014 the percentage of schools categorised as red has decreased from 5.2 per cent to 3.2 per cent in 2018. In the same period the percentage of amber schools has reduced from 28.9 per cent to 11 per cent, and percentage of green schools has increased from 15.5 per cent to 41.7 per cent. This pattern of improvement is also reflected regionally.”

A Welsh government spokesperson added: “The fact that more and more of our schools are in the green and yellow categories demonstrates that the support from consortia is having a positive impact. Clearly, we share the unions’ concerns about schools who still require the highest level of support and we will be writing to local authorities and the regions for further information on what is being done to help those schools.”


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