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A REPORT from the Wales Schools Inspectorate, Estyn, published on Friday November 4, found improved performance by the County Council’s Education Directorate.

Estyn monitored Pembrokeshire County Council Education Services in October this year. As a result of the improvements seen – affecting learners, teachers and officers – Pembrokeshire has moved out of the category of significant concern.

The last inspection, in 2019, contributed to the sudden departure of former director of education, Kate Evans-Hughes, and led to her replacement by Stephen Richards Downes.

This report made four fundamental recommendations to which the Board should respond, concluded that the Board’s education services were causing “significant concern” to inspectors and required follow-up review. The report’s authors identified that learner outcomes were too variable and that high-performing students lacked support.

Responding to the 2019 inspection, then Acting Director of Education Stephen Richards-Downes said: ‘In terms of teaching and leadership, the accountability stops with the schools. I think one of the things that’s probably happened in local authority is that there’s been too much of a patchwork approach, and we need to focus on identifying good teaching and good leadership to make sure they happen in all of our schools.

In the new report, officers of the Directorate of Education are praised for taking into account the findings of the previous inspection and implementing previous recommendations. When plans fall short of expectations, the Board provides support and challenge to senior staff to ensure they get back on track.

The report finds that since the inspection, the county council has made significant progress in helping schools improve. It notes that the authority has made key appointments bringing ‘quality and valuable experience’ to the Pembrokeshire education system.

The report says that “there has been a tangible improvement in working relationships with schools” and that the authority has “solidified a more productive working relationship with schools by involving school leaders in reference groups and seeking their input on new developments”.

Within the Department of Education, Estyn found that a more proactive approach meant officers identified schools in need of additional support earlier and stepped in when necessary.

At the time of the 2019 inspection, three of the local authority’s secondary schools were in a follow-up category after unsatisfactory inspections. Since then, two schools have moved out of the monitoring category. While one of the schools, Greenhill, has made only limited progress from its previous inspection, Estyn noted that recent improvements have helped the school address previous shortcomings.

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education, said: ‘We are pleased that the work of our schools and education services has been recognized for the improvements that have been made.
“We want to continue to improve the education of all our learners in Pembrokeshire and will continue to improve. We have significantly improved our delivery and assessment during one of the most difficult times in education in recent times. We will continue to monitor our performance carefully as we strive to achieve better results.