Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
Members will be aware that following Estyn’s inspection of Blaenau Gwent’s local authority education services for children and young people in May 2011, the inspection team judged that the authority’s education services and capacity to improve were both unsatisfactory. As a result, the authority was placed in special measures.
Unfortunately, when Estyn inspected the authority’s education service again in January 2013, the judgements were the same and the authority remained in special measures. Estyn provided the authority with 7 recommendations to address.
I have put in place a range of interventions over time, such as Commissioners and most latterly, a Ministerial recovery board, and vested the authority’s education functions with them to provide support and challenge to the authority and to assist it in addressing its shortcomings.
Estyn has been monitoring the authority’s progress and undertook visits in July and November 2014. Estyn’s last monitoring visit of the authority’s education services was undertaken last month and I wish to inform you of the outcome of that visit.
I am pleased to announce that following that visit, Estyn has judged that the authority has made sufficient progress in relation to the recommendations following the inspection of January 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.
I have met with Blaenau Gwent’s leader and chief executive to offer my congratulations on the progress they have made against the Estyn recommendations and the judgement given by inspectors.
While this judgment importantly reflects the progress made by the authority in addressing the recommendations made by Estyn it also critically reflects that outcomes for young people in Blaenau Gwent 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, I have urged the leadership team of the authority not to become complacent; and to ensure that improvement continues and is sustainable. I have urged them to consider the best mechanism which would enable this to happen.
Through my discussions with the authority I am pleased to note that this issue is firmly within the leadership team’s minds and that they are actively considering how the progress made can be continued. My officials, in collaboration with the authority, are giving some thought to the most appropriate support structures that would allow the authority to achieve this.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep Members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.