Details of a meeting between Powys County Council and Estyn, the education watchdog in Wales, will be shared to the relevant committee, a council chief has said.
At a meeting of Powys County Council on Thursday, July 20, interim chief executive, Jack Straw gave councillors an update following a meeting with Estyn back in May.
Over several weeks opposition councillors have been trying to glean information about the meeting from the ruling Liberal Democrat/Labour/Green coalition information by tabling a series of “questions at anytime” to Cllr Peter Roberts, the cabinet member for education.
Councillors understood that Estyn had been critical of some aspects of secondary schools, leadership and Welsh language education and wanted to know more details.
Interim chief executive, Jack Straw said: “Members will be aware that we had a recent Estyn visit.
“It was an improvement event. It’s important to recognise it was a visit and not an inspection.
“The outcome of that will be reported through cabinet and scrutiny (Learning and Skills Committee) so the detail will be picked up there.
“It’s fair to say there was a lot of good work recognised and some areas where both Estyn and ourselves think we can make improvements, particularly with secondary schools.”
Back in June, Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan had started asking for details of the May meeting with Estyn and asked for a copy of a “final report” on it.
Liberal Democrat, Cllr Roberts said: “On May 22 and 23, Estyn carried out an enhanced local authority link inspector visit, focusing on three of the recommendations from the local authority’s core inspection in 2019.”
He explained that at the meeting Estyn was considering “progress” since the authority’s education department was moved out of special measures in 2021.
But Cllr Roberts said a “written report” on the visit with recommendations would not be forthcoming.
Following the reply to Cllr Vaughan said: “I understand the visit highlighted concerns regarding leadership and in relation to the Welsh language.”
He asked what steps were “being taken” by the authority to address this situation as well as when councillors would receive more information on the topic.
Cllr Roberts replied: “The recent Estyn visit did highlight areas for improvement.
“This will feed into an action plan which will be shared with group leaders.”
Durring the pervious Independent/Conservative administration in September 2019, following a visit in June and July that year, Estyn published a critical report that said that there were many areas of the authority’s work causing “significant concern.”
The gave the council five recommendations for improvement:
• Improve standards in secondary schools.
• Improve the provision for learners with special educational needs and other pupils who may require extra support.
• Improve the consistency and impact of senior leaders.
• Ensure that the organisation of provision for non-maintained, post 16, Welsh medium education and secondary education meets the needs of the children and young people of Powys.
• Continue to improve the quality of financial management in schools.
Following work to address the problems, in November 2021 Estyn, confirmed that Powys will no longer be categorised as a local authority causing “significant concern.”