THINGS have gone from bad to worse for Torfaen’s education department in the past year. If you need help Bob or Mary please just ask.

All I can say is what a shame. It had such good foundations and structure what has gone wrong? One person who throughout my life I have aspired to follow is Mary Barnett who has been steadfast about ensuring the right education for the children must be devastated by this news.

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/gwentnews/10306565.Torfaen_education_goes_into_special_measures/

 

“Greater change and pace are required in order to bring about further improvement.”

It goes on to criticise a failure by the authority to spot underperformance and its impact on learners, and says that: “the authority does not identify clearly for schools, managers and elected members the extent of the improvements required or the pace at which progress is needed.”

Good Old Bob, but why and how did it happen? or are these just the fall guys for a broken education process?

Council leader Bob Wellington and Ms Ward said: “We accept we have fallen short  of our own expectations, the expectations of residents and the minister’s  expectations, for which we apologise.

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2013/03/22/council-apologises-for-special-measures-education-91466-33043036/#ixzz2ONXsYDJv

 

Torfaen council leader Bob Wellington told BBC Radio Wales they accepted the report’s findings and were prepared to work with whoever was appointed to help the authority.

“Patently it hasn’t improved enough and it hasn’t gone deep enough, or indeed, been fast enough,” he said.

“We don’t accept that we didn’t make any improvements. In, fact we consider that we had made improvements.

“A lot of people have put a lot of effort in to this, certainly at a managerial level and other levels.

“I think we’ve done everything we can to try and improve, but we recognise that we need external assistance in the same way that the other local authorities that are in the same place are receiving now.”

If you ever need help from me Bob you know you only have to ask. l.foxwell@languageawards.com

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-21889693

 

 

Welsh Education …my worry

Over the past week I have read numerous reports about the Welsh education System being found unsatisfactory at LA level.  To date Blaenau Gwent, Anglesey and Pembrokeshire, Merthyr Tydfil and Monmouthshire are all in special measures and more worryingly on a normal curve there would be the same amount recognised as being outstanding, but this is not the case.

Having worked in areas where schools are deemed to be in Special measures it is really difficult to sum up the feeling of worthlessness and lack of support the individuals in this situation feel, as well as the disbelief at the people who should be helping who either can’t or talk the talk and sadly can’t walk the walk, yet they are making the crucial decisions and walking away scott free whilst pointing the finger.

Has anyone actually thought about what these people are now feeling? Many will feel isolated and teams will also feel isolated but it wont stop them trying to do the best for their staff and pupils, but without any support. To make the necessary changes it takes strong people confident in their ability to make change without the support of those set up to support them.

What does surprise me is this statement

It’s no coincidence that many of our councils look to England for inspiration,  with several directors of education (the majority experienced in working in  deprived areas) parachuted in from across the border.

Why are they looking over the border? I am sure they have schools which have been judged outstanding by ESTYN so why don’t they harness these staff, they are relevant and in touch with todays policies, strategies, parents expectations and pupils needs. All too often we look to those above us, or in this case those in a different system. A few years ago there was a lot of work done about 360degree evaluation which sadly in many cases meant looking at what is worse below us and improve it rather than looking at what is best practice and bringing it through.

This together with the fear of staff re job losses due to our current national financial situation, who works well in a climate of fear?  The way many councils have dealt with this is to cut the necessary staff needed to do these jobs, this together with the cutting of wage levels so that a different level of staff are attracted i..e. rather than paying for Local Authority Consultants at deputy Head level many have opted for the equivalent wage of a head of department, in that way they get heads of departments and not people with the educational depth and knowledge needed to support and improve practice.

Finally from a story at Wales Online

Mr Andrews’ bullish reaction was to be expected. Having already threatened to  pull education from council jurisdiction, Estyn’s findings were more power to  his elbow.

My concern is that if this continues and staff morale decreases, parental support is diminished it will open a wide chasm for someone like Capita to sweet talk The Welsh Government that they can do better and education in Wales will never be the same again. Capita and similar companies will always have the verbal verbosity to explain the reasons why the LA’s or schools  should be in specials measures, but are not necessarily caring about the children and learning but more about profit as we can see from the recent translation debacle, but if this happens the Welsh Govt will have no way back and that will be a very sad day for Welsh education for everyone.

Remember the reason we are in education and making policies about teaching and learning is because we want to support our children.

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education-news/2013/02/23/why-half-term-is-usually-the-calm-before-the-storm-in-welsh-education-91466-32862733/#ixzz2LohsPxJq

LLantarnam School in Special measures – Why?

I read with interest and dismay about Llantarnam School being in special measures and wonder where did it all go wrong? Surely the educational choices of management over the years have led to this insecurity of both pupils and staff. This did not just happen overnight and those in authority must have been aware of the failings, just looking at recent data should have sent alarm bells ringing.  Where were the Local Authority advisers? Where was the support of the teachers, head and governors in the previous years to stop this slide from happening?

Perhaps I write with rose-coloured glasses but as a product of Llantarnam school and its then wonderful teachers I am disappointed by the educationists within the system as they let this happen. It has always been in the Croesy is a much better school – left over from the old grammar system – battle despite being the first comprehensive. This immediately makes the learners and I suspect teachers feel it they are second best – yet they can shine as I know.

Recently I applied to help and support the Welsh assembly via their system leaders but lost out in the first stages so at that point immediately wondered what they were looking for. I might not be the best candidate but I can offer having being asked twice to help to successfully turn around a school in special measures with not dissimilar problems to Llantarnam.  In the past I helped other school out of difficulties and departments improve practice all successfully and with praise from LA and HMI. Currently I work part-time with my husband and his translation company but have kept helping schools with good practice on my free days as well as directing, organising and developing the Primary Language Awards of which I ensured Welsh was an inclusion and its own category. NB Entries are currently open for schools to enter and each category winner receives £500 of langauge resources. www.languageawards.com

Yet having such experiences meant I didn’t even get an interview, maybe they feel my other work is a conflict of interest but it my mind it clearly isn’t, for me its a daily reminder of the difficulties learners have in school with literacy and my first experiences as a teacher. How many other educationalist have first hand experience of successfully turning around schools and still want to achieve it for others… I suspect not many.  I made the decision years ago not to become a head but preferring instead to offer support to those school labelled as unsatisfactory.  The reason being that either OFSTED or ESTYN quite rightly made their judgements but no one then wanted to help.  LA staff whose job it should have been just pulled away and began pointing the finger whilst school staff and pupils were left demoralised like ‘billy no mates’.

When at Llantarnam I was inspired by my teachers from my form tutor Mr Harrison who also played cricket, and Terry Cobner who played a bit of rugby  through to my history teacher who became a pastoral leader later in her career, geography teacher who later became a head. I was even blessed with one term of Ken Jones teaching me and the class poetry…I dont think many of my class liked poetry but he said he liked my poems and writing so hopefully he will be looking down on thsi and smiling and saying as he did then …if you think it write it… and I remember it fondly. I was the first to get a GOLD Duke of Edinburgh award and although at the time in sixth form not knowing what I wanted to achieve I was allowed to do woodwork and Mr Jarvis my 5th form form tutor tested me on wiring a plug, changing a  washer and similar things.  I was only ever nurtured on the unconventional things I liked like the discus in PE and not liking food technology.

It will be no surprise then that in later life after getting annoyed because the boys wouldn’t let me saw the piece of wood they always wanted to help…love them, my dad always let me use wood but watched like a hawk and if I wanted to use metal not understanding my interest in welding but my grandfather letting me play in the shed I trained to become one of the first design technology teachers wood, metal, plastic, control and textiles. Not an easy feat as even in teacher training at Croesy, Bettws and Llantarnam I kept getting offers to do food technology whilst I was confident to do what felt right education wise, I was never a great speaker and this is still something that everyday I struggle with and didn’t get my NQT job at Llantarnam because I got very tongue-tied.  It takes a while for people to get used to me but through a mix of my mentoring and my willingness and ability to achieve especially where there is a struggle involved and the willingness to show practically what the theory means in the classroom means that over time I have become respected within my field of support.

I wish the new person overseeing it from Croydon well and will read with interest the developments in the next months. I only hope that they do not underestimate the desperation of staff not sure they are doing a good job and the risk of them leaving, parents taking children out to another school leading to a more falling role means that it is a task that will take years rather than months to improve. What it needs is a clear vision, a charged up and interested staff that can get help without feeling they are inadequate and positive experiences by the pupils which will feed interest and success vibes into the parents and community.

And finally to the Welsh Government, Torfaen LA and the schools governors before you start being negative about all the practice remember:

  • there are some really good ones that need pulling through and building on
  • each child every day is their first it cannot be regained further down the line they must get the best education that the teacher can give that day
  •  From a management point of view ‘no one gets up to do a bad job, but circumstances and policies in the day to day running lead to the best not always being achieved’.
  • If you look out to find the worst and always talk about that and not balance it with the successes it will always be a failing school for all within it.

see the full report here http://www.torfaen.gov.uk/en/News/2012/November/21-Council-response-to-Llantarnam-Estyn-inspection.aspx