Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
Members will be aware that following Estyn’s inspection of Torfaen’s local authority education services for children and young people in October 2011, the inspection team judged that the authority’s current performance was unsatisfactory and capacity to improve was adequate and placed it in the category of Significant Improvement. The inspection report set out 5 recommendations for the authority.
Unfortunately, when Estyn undertook a monitoring visit of the authority’s education service in February 2013, the judgment reached was that since the original inspection in October 2011, the authority had made insufficient progress. This resulted in the authority being placed in Special Measures.
In October 2013, Welsh Ministers put in place a Ministerial Recovery Board, to provide support and challenge to the authority’s education service and to assist it in addressing its shortcomings.
Estyn has been monitoring the authority’s progress and undertook visits in May and October 2014. On each occasion the Inspectors found that the authority had made progress against the individual recommendations but there was still some work to do.
Estyn’s last monitoring visit of the authority’s education services was undertaken in November 2015 and I wish to inform you of the outcome of that visit.
I am pleased to say that following that visit, Estyn has judged that the authority has made sufficient progress in relation to the recommendations following the inspection in 2011 and monitoring visit of February 2013. As a result, the Inspectorate considers that the authority no longer requires special measures and is removing it from further follow-up activity.
Estyn’s report of the outcome of the monitoring visit will be published on its website today.
Welsh Ministers met with the Leader and Chief Executive of Torfaen to offer congratulations on the progress that the authority has achieved and the judgment given by inspectors. As the authority has been removed from special measures I will be revoking the Direction that was issued putting in place a Ministerial recovery board to provide support and challenge as the authority addressed the recommendations.
While this judgment importantly reflects the progress made by the authority it also critically reflects that outcomes for young people in Torfaen are improving. We must continue to focus on these outcomes and ensure that standards in education in the authority continue to improve.
Whilst today’s announcement by Estyn is pleasing, Welsh Ministers have urged the leadership team of the authority not to become complacent; and to ensure that improvement continues and is sustainable and to consider the best mechanism which would enable this to happen.
Torfaen must also ensure that it addresses the important areas that Estyn highlights in its letter that requires further improvement – to focus on evaluating performance against a wider range of national benchmark indicators at KS3 and KS4, and to prioritise the improvement of pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills. We have discussed measures to comply with the further work required and are satisfied that they will be taken forward.
Estyn also recognises the contribution of the work of the Recovery Board and has suggested that Torfaen considers ongoing engagement with external experts to ensure that the pace of improvement continues.