Will the Minister outline any meetings had with the North Wales Education Consortia and publish the minutes and details of those meetings?
Local authorities have statutory responsibility for monitoring their schools and providing support where it is needed. In North Wales, GwE regional consortium provides a range of school improvement services and professional learning on behalf of the North Wales local authorities to support schools across the region.
The Welsh Government published school improvement guidance in June 2022 that sets out our framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability for schools, local authorities, regional consortia and Estyn. It provides clarity on the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in assisting the improvement of schools.
The fundamental role of regional consortia, set out in the guidance, is to support schools to improve, to give learners the best possible learning experiences and outcomes and, in doing so, to raise standards and narrow the gap between disadvantaged learners and their peers. Estyn will continue to provide objective, independent, and impartial information on the performance of schools through inspections.
In spring 2021, the Welsh Government initiated a multi-agency approach for supporting secondary schools in special measures. Its purpose is to ensure that secondary schools with the highest needs benefit from effective, joined up support, drawn from across the system but led by local authorities, which is focused on schools’ improvement needs. Several secondary schools in North Wales are participating in this approach.
During the pandemic, Wales led the UK in supporting learners and schools to deal with the impacts and continues to do so, allocating more funding per-head than any country in the UK. The Renew and Reform plan delivered a comprehensive package of support of over £270m in the financial year 2021-22, providing support for all learners and specific packages for those cohorts most affected.
I regularly meet His Majesty’s Chief Inspector to allow him to share feedback with me directly on Estyn’s inspection activity and wider work. We have not specifically discussed any difficulties faced by schools in North Wales. Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, Estyn published summaries of its engagement calls and visits to schools and PRUs. These gathered evidence of the impact of the pandemic on pupils and staff, while also identifying key messages that schools and PRUs need to consider as they support recovery and reform.
My officials regularly meet their counterparts in GwE. In April 2022, Welsh Government’s Director of Education and the Welsh Language chaired a Review and Challenge meeting with GwE which covered their plans and priorities for 2022-23 and their progress in supporting schools causing concern.