Political row over special measures statistics in Wales

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

As teachers in Wales return to their classrooms this week there are concerns about the numbers of secondary schools in special measures.

Out of the 195 secondary schools in the country, seven are currently in special measures and 10 are in need of significant improvement.

Among all types of school in Wales 18 are currently in special measures, while 26 are deemed in need of “significant improvement”.

Shadow education secretary Darren Millar has described the situation as “a matter of significant concern”. However, the Welsh government says it is wrong to compare year-on-year figures.

A new inspection framework was introduced by the Welsh education inspectorate Estyn in the last academic year and of the 27 schools which were visited for the first time in this new cycle more than half had areas judged to be inadequate.

Just three schools – Bishopstown Comprehensive and Olchfa School, which are both in Swansea, and The Bishop of Llandaff CIW High in Cardiff – were judged to be excellent in all areas. Of the remaining 24 schools inspected, nine were put under review until progress was made. Two were judged to need significant improvement and two others were put into special measures.

Mr Millar stated: “It is a matter of significant concern that the number of struggling Welsh schools has been increasing in recent years in spite of the Welsh Labour-led government’s efforts to improve the situation.”

But an Assembly government spokesperson said: “It shows a complete lack of understanding to compare year-on-year inspections because a different sample of schools are inspected each year.”

Estyn now gives schools just 15 days’ notice of an inspection, and it grades standards, wellbeing, teaching, leadership, as well as care, support and guidance. These are judged on a scale from “unsatisfactory” and “in need of urgent improvement” to “excellent”.

Those in need of improvement are either put under review, listed as in need of significant improvement or put in special measures.
Twenty-three secondary schools were revisited in 2017/18, as part of these on-going reviews, and the news was much more positive with the majority of schools deemed to have made progress and met the recommendations set by Estyn. Of the 23, six were taken out of special measures, four were removed from being judged to need significant improvement, and 10 will have no further monitoring.

Cabinet secretary for education Kirsty Williams said: “Those schools that are seeing continuous improvement and changes in their results, they are getting things right for their pupils and I have always believed that the driver for raising standards is the ability for schools and teachers to learn from one another.”


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