Sut mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn gweithio gyda Chyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Torfaen i fynd i'r afael â'r diffyg craffu ar adroddiadau diogelu blynyddol fel y nodwyd yn adroddiad arolygu Estyn ar Gyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Torfaen 2022?
The outcome of Estyn’s Torfaen education service inspection in March 2022 was disappointing. I met the leadership at Torfaen to discuss the outcome of the inspection in May. We agreed that an ambitious response is needed, with pace and urgency, to address the shortcomings. Everyone recognises the challenges that the local authority faces and the importance of working together to bring about improvements.
In the first instance, responsibility for improvement lies with the local authority, engaging partners to provide support. The local authority is in the process of updating their improvement plans to show how it will address the recommendations from the inspection. I expect their plans to be ambitious about the improvements that they plan to make, and to set out clearly and realistically how they will achieve these necessary improvements.
Estyn will review the local authority’s progress in developing appropriate plans to address the identified shortcomings through a post inspection improvement conference; and will continue to monitor their progress over time. I look forward to Torfaen setting out its improvement plans. If Torfaen wishes to request support from Welsh Government as part of their wider plans for improvement, we would of course consider their request and determine the type of support that we can provide.
The performance of secondary schools over time in Torfaen has been a significant issue for the local authority. It clearly should not be possible for learners to attend a secondary school that remains in an Estyn category throughout their time at the school.
Partly in response to the number of secondary schools who had been in special measures for too long, during the 2021 spring/summer term, the Welsh Government rolled out a multi-agency approach to support secondary schools in special measures. The purpose of the approach is to ensure that our secondary schools with the highest needs benefit from effective, joined up support, drawn from across the system, which is focused on their improvement needs. Its aim is to enable the schools to make sufficient progress to be removed from special measures and to sustain that improvement over time.
The three secondary schools in special measures in Torfaen in April 2021 were all involved in the approach. Following an Estyn monitoring visit in November 2021, one of these schools, Croesyceiliog High School, has been judged to have made sufficient progress and been removed from category. What is important now is that Torfaen, along with multi-agency partners, continues to support its other schools to make sustainable improvements for the benefit of their learners.
Pupils not feeling safe at school is an important issue that we need to address. The Welsh Government has issued statutory guidance Keeping Learners Safe (KLS) to support schools in creating and maintaining a safe learning environment for children. We have also developed a safeguarding audit tool to provide support to schools (and all other education settings) to ensure that there are effective systems in place to meet their legal safeguarding obligations in line with the KLS guidance. The audit tool is included in the revised KLS guidance as a matter of effective practice for all education settings.
We will also use the findings of Estyn’s thematic report on peer-on-peer sexual harassment amongst secondary school pupils to inform our ongoing cross government response and work with stakeholders; including developing a multi-agency action plan. The action plan is intended for children and young people, and all those working with children and young people in an education setting who would benefit from understanding the actions taken by the Welsh Government and partners to tackle peer on peer sexual harassment in education settings.
The action plan will set out the current and proposed future actions to tackle the issue of peer-on-peer sexual harassment in education settings against identified key themes. Importantly this action plan will link to sister plans: National Action Plan for Preventing Child Abuse; Digital Resilience in Education Action Plan and the VAWDASV Strategy, in order to aid understanding of the work and support available to empower children and young people.
Regarding issues about persistent absences, a review of attendance patterns in Wales was undertaken between November 2021 and January 2022, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the reasons behind non-attendance, thus enabling us to design appropriate interventions that are tailored to the needs/challenges facing particular cohorts. A full copy of the report can be found here.
Whilst overall attendance is showing signs of recovery, attendance rates remain a concern, and particularly rates of unauthorised absences. The priority, above all else, is to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to reach their potential, regardless of their background. Tackling learner absence is key to this.
A focus on attendance will be part of the policy work we are undertaking on tackling the impact of poverty on attainment to achieve High Standards and Aspirations for all. Achieving improved rates of attendance for all learners including those from low-income households will be one of the indicators of success we will seek in this area.