The residential special school Ysgol y Deri on the campus of the Penarth Learning Community has received a “good” performance rating from the Wales schools watchdog Estyn in an assessment report out today – but there are some caveats.
Ysgol y Deri is a has 251 pupils aged between 3 and 19 years of age, all of whom are “statemented” because of various degrees of learning difficulties or autistic spectrum
The new school was created from an amalgamation of Ysgol Erw’r Delyn, Ysgol Maes Dyfan and Ashgrove School and is now located on the new Penarth Learning Campus next to St Cyres Secondary School.
The headteacher [Christopher Britten] and the school’s senior leadership team get a pat on the back from Estyn for having “worked skilfully and imaginatively to bring three very different schools together through a process of amalgamation.”
The Estyn inspectors found that:-
- “Nearly all pupils make strong progress in developing their learning, social and life-skills “
- “Pupils access a broad range of relevant learning experiences that are well
matched to their needs”
- ” There are highly effective arrangements to support pupils’ health and wellbeing”
- “Staff have high expectations of pupils’ work and behaviour”
- “Teaching is good “- although later in the report Estyn says that ” the quality of teaching is not consistently good in all classes and departments across the school”.
The Estyn report notes that “Most pupils behave very well around the school and in class. They are considerate of their peers and polite to visitors and staff. Where a few pupils have difficulty managing their behaviour, nearly all respond suitably to staff intervention and encouragement. Many pupils improve their behaviour over time, due to the well-coordinated approach to behaviour support at the school.”
However the Estyn inspectors also say that “In the few lessons where teaching is less effective, tasks do not always meet the needs of the more able pupils and the pace of lessons is too slow. Teachers do not always make the most effective use of available teaching time. In a very few lessons, staff do not allow pupils enough independence and overly support them in their learning. As a result, a few pupils do not make enough progress.”
Estyn recommends improving the quality of individual education plans to match targets more closely to the needs of pupils identified in statements of special educational needs. It says Ysgol y Deri will now draw up an action plan and will invite the school to prepare a written case study, describing the excellent practice identified during the inspection.
The Estyn report issued today appears to contradict a report issued in January this year on residential section of the school “Ty Deri” which was issued by another watchdog body the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) . This earlier report had castigated the governors of the school for lack of involvement in the school.
The CSSIW had said in January “There was no evidence of the governing body monitoring the welfare of young people.” and its inspectors had been told“there had been little involvement of school governors in the boarding although one governor was described as having visited and undertaken a monitoring visit.” The CSSIW inspectors reported that “There was no record of this visit”.
Today’s Estyn report however tells a somewhat different story from January’s CSSIW report . It says :-
“Governors fulfil their statutory responsibilities successfully. They receive useful information about the school’s progress against improvement goals and have a sound understanding of the school’s strengths and a developing awareness of priorities for improvement. Governors provide appropriate levels of support and effective challenge, for example in relation to financial management and expenditure at the school. They visit the school frequently to monitor the quality of the school’s provision. This enables them to make worthwhile contributions to self-evaluation work.”
In January this year BBC Wales had reported “issues over staff sickness-levels and low morale” at Ysgol Y Deri and that the sickness situation was so bad that at any one time up to 20% of the 230 staff at the school had been off sick .
The Estyn inspection – carried out nine months later in October this year – makes no mention of any staff sickness issue – implying that any difficulties in that area have now been resolved .