The work being done to help Powys schools causing concern will be brought in front of an education scrutiny committee to reassure members that progress is being made.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Wednesday, September 13 councillors were given a presentation on the Secondary School Improvement Strategy which was implemented by the Education department earlier this year.
The strategy builds on the work of the Secondary School Improvement Team which is made up of educational experts.
The need to create an in house secondary education improvement team follows the demise of ERW which had previously done the work.
ERW was an alliance of six local authorities created to deliver school improvement services across Mid and South West Wales which ended in 2021.
At the meeting members were told that the council expects five of the county’s secondary/all through schools to be inspected by Estyn this academic year.
Last year three secondary schools were inspected by Estyn.
Following these inspections Brecon and Gwernyfed High Schools are in special measures while Ysgol Calon Cymru is in Estyn’s “review” category.
The committee were told that the strategy priorities include improving teaching and learning, and improving literacy and numeracy standards across secondary schools.
Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Bryn Davies said: “I would like to have seen more specific short term targets.
“There’s a reference here to establish new methods of working and develop a baseline of standards and provision in secondary schools.”
Cllr Davies wondered if this means that a “fundamental curriculum” of subjects should be taught in every secondary school in Powys or is it about the “quality of teaching.”
Cllr Davies asked: “What is the baseline and where can I see it?
“Is it the same for Welsh medium and English medium streams?”
Head of education Georgie Bevan said: “It’s looking at the learning and teaching - we were involved in joint lesson observation, book looks in classrooms.”
Ms Bevan stressed it was not about the “breadth of offer” of subjects that a school teaches.
Cllr Davies asked if there was a “baseline” for subjects being taught in schools.
Ms Bevan said: “We’ve begun to collate it and will need to ask each school what subjects they teach at Year 7 or Year 8.”
Due to the exam results schools receive in August, Ms Bevan explained they know what subjects are taught for GCSE and A-level.
Cllr Davies asked that an “audit” take place of what subject lessons are offered in both Welsh and English medium schools.
Cllr Davies said: “I’ve no idea how we measure improvement unless this is known.”
Powys Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies added that the subjects taught audit should cover all secondary schools.
Interim director of education and children’s social services, Lynette Lovell said: “We do have schools that cause us concern and have statutory powers such as warning notices, but we want to work with our school so that we don’t have to go down those routes.”
She added that bringing further information to share on schools’ performance, including the “good practice” with the scrutiny committee would take place.
“It would be helpful and give committee assurance of schools' progress,” said Cllr (Aled) Davies.
The debate will continue at the committee’s next meeting on Wednesday, September 20.