COUNCILLORS have been given an update on what is being done to improve two failing schools in Blaenau Gwent.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council on Wednesday, January 18, head of school improvement and inclusion, Luisa Munro-Morris explained the current situation at both Brynmawr Foundation School and The River Centre – Learning Community 3-16 special school.

Ms Munro-Morris said: “Brynmawr continues to be subject to an LA (local authority) statutory notice to improve, and that warning is being reviewed as there continue to be concerns about the pace of change.

Ms Munro-Morris told councillors that Estyn had recently re-visited the school and had identified improvement at Brynmawr around leadership and pupil behaviour, but the teaching needed to be improved.

Ms Munro-Morris said: “In the December visit by Estyn the school was still deemed as not having made significant enough progress, but had made good improvement in around half of the lessons they observed.”

Turning to the River Centre, Ms Munro-Morris said that the governing body “remained under statutory intervention.”

Ms Munro-Morris said: “In November we were pleased to apppoint a dedicted acting headteacher.

“Even though it’s only been a coulple of months the progress the school has made under her leadership is significant.”

“The Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP) has been submitted to Estyn.

“An initial monitoring visit took place on December 15 where the PIAP and local authority statement of action were deemed to be of very good quality and Estyn expressed their belief the school could make good progress.”

She added that Blaenau Gwent had asked the Welsh Government if The River Centre could be part of the multi agency support strategy just like Brynmawr.

Ms Munro-Morris said: “This is an opportunity where rather than just the LA leading the school improvement meetings, there would be representatives from Welsh Government, Estyn, EAS (Educational Achievement Service) all work on a single plan to help the school to improve and hold them to account.”

“The Welsh Government haven’t had any special schools as part of that multi-agency pilot before, they agree it would be of benefit to the River Centre.”

Council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas said: “It’s pleasing that the River Centre PIAP found favour with Estyn.”

Portfolio holder for social services, Cllr Haydn Trollope asked whether the governing bodies of both schools had been a “critical friend.”

Ms Munro-Morris said that school governors had been observed at meetings asking questions and challenging the school.

Governors had an “awareness” of where the school is and “where they need to go,” she explained.

Cllr Thomas said: “Where we feel the critical friend is not there we’re not afraid to appoint ourselves to go that extra mile to make sure those questions are asked and those schools are challenged.”

Councillors approved the report – and were also told that Estyn had recently inspected the Blaeanau Gwent education department and a report is expected to be published next month.

Brynmawr Foundation School, was inspected by Estyn in 2019 and put into special measures.

The River Centre was put into special measures last September after Estyn inspected the special school in June 2022.