Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
As Assembly members will be aware Estyn undertook a full inspection of Cardiff’s Local Authority Education Services for Children and Young People (LAESCYP) services in January 2011 and determined that the authority was in need of Estyn monitoring following the outcomes of this inspection.
A monitoring visit to assess the local authority’s progress was then undertaken in June 2012; this noted that the authority had largely addressed one of the key recommendations from the original inspection and partly addressed the remaining five. As a result of these findings the authority remained in the follow up category of Estyn monitoring.
As is usual the authority has now been subject to a further monitoring visit by inspectors and I am making this written statement to update members on the outcome of this visit. The visit itself took place from 10-14 February 2014 and today Estyn will publish the results of this visit in the form of a letter to the Chief Executive.
It is with a great deal of disappointment that I inform assembly members that following this visit Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales (HMCI) is increasing the level of follow-up activity as she is of the opinion that the authority is in need of Significant Improvement.
As the monitoring letter highlights, it has been three years since the authority was originally inspected and 20 months since the first monitoring visit. The inspectors have noted the purposeful leadership of the Cabinet Member for Education and Life Long Learning and that throughout this time she has ensured that the focus of improvement has been maintained appropriately. Her wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of the issues affecting education have been crucial to the authority maintaining a strong focus on improvement.
However, despite the more robust action that has been taken in recent months; overall, they conclude that most outcomes for children and young people have not improved well enough during the period and not enough progress has been made in many of the areas for improvement such as provision and leadership and management.
In terms of the actual recommendations following the original inspection and the first monitoring visit, Cardiff have fully addressed only one recommendation, largely addressed one other, and only partly addressed the remaining five recommendations.
As a result the recommendations from the inspection in 2011 and the monitoring visit in 2012 have been revised. HMCI is of the opinion that in order to bring about improvements the authority should:
- Raise standards, particularly at key stage 4;
- Reduce exclusions and reduce the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training post-16;
- Make sure that the arrangements for delivering school improvement services challenge and support all schools effectively, in order to improve standards for learners in all key stages;
- Improve the effectiveness of joint planning across the range of partnership working;
- Improve performance management processes to ensure a consistent approach in delivering objectives; and
- Improve the scrutiny of local authority education services and partnership working.
I have noted that the inspectorate have highlighted the significant changes in the senior leadership of the authority over the period since the original inspection and first monitoring visit where there was significant turnover in the senior management posts and periods with key posts unfilled.
I therefore take some reassurance from the inspection findings that the current Director of Education (who took up post in August 2013) has clarified the relationship between the authority and its schools and has taken action to challenge schools more robustly and is working closely with the regional consortia to improvement the quality of monitoring, challenge and support for schools in the authority. I am also reassured that the current Chief Executive (who took up post in December 2013) is found to have a sound understanding of the areas for improvement in Cardiff’s education services. This along with the purposeful leadership of the cabinet member will I hope place the authority in a position to now address the recommendations with urgency and rigour.
Estyn expects the authority to prepare a post inspection action plan to outline the steps they will take to make the necessary improvements within 50 days. However this plan is not being generated from the results of this visit, as the authority already has plans in place that they are now in the process of revising and updating. As such I expect and have agreed with the leadership of Cardiff that the revised plan is to be prepared urgently. I am therefore giving the authority a revised deadline of 10 working days from the publication of this report to submit their revised action plan.
I also expect that in preparing and taking forward that plan the authority will take advice and guidance from my department which holds a range of expertise linked to work with a number of authorities who have fallen into the Estyn categories of Special Measures and Significant Improvement.
I expect the authority to adopt the good practice evident from a number of my Ministerial Recovery Boards and to ensure that they secure objective, external challenge, advice and guidance as they address their shortcomings.
In order to support the authority in doing this I commit officials within my department to work with the authority to help, challenge and support them in their improvement journey. I expect the authority to accept this support and guidance and to work productively with my officials in preparing and actioning their response to the inspection.
Once I have fully considered the authority’s response and taken further advice from HMCI on the robustness of the authority’s plans I will consider whether the authority requires any further intervention using powers available to me as Welsh Minister.
I will of course continue to update Assembly Members as these matters develop.