An upbeat annual performance report on education for the last year has been presented to Blaenau Gwent councillors.
At a special meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, May 3, councillors went through the education’s performance report, covering April 2022 to March 2023.
Much of the data in the report compares 2022 with 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Education portfolio holder Cllr Sue Edmunds said: “Picking out some of the key points of the report it’s pleasing to note there was an overall improvement in outcomes across the service but particularly at key stage four (years 10 and 11).
“Overall, 29 of our 32 key measures have shown improvement.”
She added that there had been a reduction of schools “causing concern” with the numbers falling from six in 2019 to two in 2022.
The number of NEETS – young people not in education or employment or training – has also fallen said Cllr Edmunds
Cllr Edmunds also pointed out that the council has invested in improving facilities for pupils with additional learning needs to refurbish the River Centre and Pen y Cwm including “specialist classrooms.”
Work is has also taken place on several school building projects worth £26 million including refurbishing Ysgol Gymaeg Bro Helyg, the new Glyncoed primary school, Rhos y Fedwen refurbishment and secondary school remodelling.
But there is still some work to do, as Cllr Edmunds explained: “Areas of concern in the report include an increase in elective home education a drop in attendance.
“These are direct result of the need for home and blended learning during the pandemic and follow a national trend.”
“We are seeing an adjustment back to pre-covid levels but it’s slow.”
Head of school improvement and inclusion, Luisa Munro-Morris said: “We have seen a rise in exclusions data but it’s in-line with the national picture.
She didn’t want councillors to be “alarmed” by the rise.
Dr Munro-Morris said: “We are trying to be proactive; funding has been put into schools with high exclusion rates.
“They have been able to develop nurture provision and we’re seeing a positive impact of that now that it’s been running for a term and a half.”
This provision allows children to take time out to calm down which stops them from misbehaving and getting excluded.
Council leader Cllr Steve Thomas said: “It’s a good report but your drawn to those areas that are pulling us down a bit and it’s how we speed up or response to those problems.”
He added that the performance report was “timely” as it “tied in” with the previous report to address the recommendations made by Estyn to the education service following their recent inspection.
Councillors approved the report.
As of February there were 145 children being educated at home – up from 137 last year.
The number of pupils getting at least five A* to A grade results at GCSE went up to 15.5 per cent in Blaenau Gwent secondary schools in 2022 up from 10.4 per cent in 2019.
The number of exclusions in secondary schools, which the council has anonymised, has varied with some showing massive increases ,and others a drop.
School A – 344 in 2022/2023 – up from 189 in 2021/2022;
School B – 22 in 2022/2023 – down from 78 in 2021/2022;
School C – 58 in 2022/2023 – down from 76 in 2021/2022;
School D – 239 in 2022/2023 – up from 99 in 2021/2022.
Similarly, the names of secondary schools have been anonymised for attendance data.
School A – 85.72 per cent in 2022/2023 up from 83.5 per cent in 2021/2022;
School B -89.7 per cent up in 2022/2023 up from 89.4 per cent in 2021/2022;
School C – 89.51 per cent up in 2022/2023 up from 85 per cent in 2021/2022;
School D – 88.46 per cent up in 2022/2023 up from 85.1 per cent in 2021/2022.
The average school attendance across Blaenau Gwent primary schools was 91.62 per cent for 2022/23.
This is up from 89.95 per cent for 2021/2022.