THE quality of education children and young people receive in Cardiff’s schools continues to improve year on year and is – in many instances – among the very best on offer in Wales, according to information published in the latest Estyn (Education Inspectorate for Wales) report.
The Estyn report highlights the significant improvements noted by inspection teams, and praises Cardiff Council’s work and its political leadership for driving change and dealing with the effects of the pandemic on the education system.
Estyn reported that:
Senior leaders share a bold and ambitious vision for all learners, which they communicate clearly;
Support for young people and their families is highly evident;
The leader of the council, cabinet member and chief executive set out high expectations for officers, schools and other providers;
Council support is well regarded by schools and setting leaders;
Excellent judgements for standards in secondary schools are higher than those nationally;
Outcomes for pupils that are eligible to free-school meals (efsm) have generally been above that of the same group nationally;
The proportion of efsm pupils that achieve 5A/A* grades is notably higher than the national average
The Council has made good progress in ensuring that there are the right schools, of the right type and in the right places to meet the needs of their learners;
Cardiff youth service provides high-quality provision in prioritised areas of the city; and
Senior officers in education and health and safety aligned their work effectively throughout the pandemic.
Estyn has also asked the council to prepare three case studies:
On the ground-breaking work it has carried out working with business to improve employment opportunities for young people (The Cardiff Commitment);
On its support for children of asylum seekers; and
How it has set about transforming youth work.
The case studies will be used as examples of good practice on Estyn’s website.
Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, Cllr Sarah Merry, said:
“Education in Cardiff has come a long way over the past 10 years. When this administration took over in 2012 education services in the city were at a low ebb and in danger of going into special measures. We were determined to prioritise education and the future of our young people and it’s fantastic to see that the hard work, determination and leadership to do better producing the results our children and young people deserve. Education in Cardiff has improved year after year under this administration. I am delighted that Estyn has recognised thetremendous efforts that have been put in across the board to ensure that progress and improvements have continued, especially over the past two years of the pandemic.
“Allied to our £284m commitment to build new and better schools over the next five years in addition to our significant budget delegated to schools and, this report is good news for Cardiff, good news for parents and great news for our children and young people. Of course there will always be more to do and ways in which we can improve. We have noted Estyn’s points on how we might further drive the take-up of Welsh-medium education and we are already working on plans to facilitate growth in this area.
“It was especially pleasing to see Estyn note the great work being done developing partnerships with business and other external organisations through the Cardiff Commitment, which is designed to help young people into work, and it was also great to see the work we do with children of asylum and the fantastic work our youth services do, all being fully recognised. We know thateducation is everybody’s businessand we are determined that Cardiff’s children, young people and their families receive the best support and opportunities available to them.”
Leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, added:
“Education has always been a priority for this administration. We know that improving standards across the city will improve the lives of our citizens. Guaranteeing a better education for all helps guarantee a better future for all. It will do more to tackle inequalities and ensure our children get the best start and the best opportunities in life. I’m delighted that Estyn has recognised the progress we continue to make, and in particular, the strong leadership and vision we’ve set. I want to thank everyone involved across the education sector for the great work they are doing pushing standards in Cardiff ever higher.”
Key notes from the Estyn report:
Between September 2017 to March 2020 Estyn inspected seven secondary, 43 primary and two special schools. In addition, it inspected two non-maintained settings. It judged that standards were excellent in two secondary schools, good in a further two and adequate in three. It judged standards to be good in many primary schools and excellent in four. In a further five schools, standards were judged to be adequate. Standards in maintained special schools were good in one and adequate in the other. In non-maintained settings, standards were good in one. In the other there were too few children to comment.
Excellent judgements for standards in secondary schools are higher than those nationally and in primary schools are in line with other schools across Wales. No special school received a judgement of excellent compared with just under a third nationally.
Outcomes for pupils that are eligible to free-school meals (efsm) have generally been above that of the same group nationally. The proportion of efsm pupils that achieve 5A/A* grades is notably higher than the national average.
The local authority has invested well in a range of capital projects during the first phase of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools between 2014 and 2019. This has enabled it to make good progress in ensuring that there are the right schools, of the right type and in the right places to meet the needs of their learners. The local authority has increased planned investment to over £284million for the five-year period from 2019.
The Cardiff Commitment has been a powerful lever for attracting investment from businesses and industry in education, training and employment opportunities for young people. The aims of this long-term strategy have evolved suitably in response to national educational priorities and the challenges of the pandemic.
Cardiff youth service provides high-quality provision in prioritised areas of the city that includes a mixture of open access and targeted work. Young people, in the areas served, are at the heart of service development.
Youth workers are adaptable, resourceful and well qualified for the wide variety of roles they carry out. There is strong and well-established partnership working such as with youth justice, social services, and through the development of youth action groups. Young people from disadvantaged areas of the city are targeted effectively.
There is a strong corporate understanding that safeguarding is everybody’s concern, and this is reflected in the local authority’s policies and practices.
Over a three-year average, 24.5% of pupils aged 5 to 15 are eligible for free school meals, slightly higher than the Wales average of 20.4%. In line with nearly all other authorities in Wales the percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals has increased over the past three years.
11.8% of pupils aged five and over are fluent in Welsh, which is lower than the Wales average of 16.1%.
35.1% of pupils aged five and over are from ethnic minorities, considerably higher than the Wales average of 12.2%.
16.6% of pupils have special educational needs, lower than the Wales average of 19.5%.
132 children per 10,000 were looked after by the local authority in 2021, which is higher than the Wales average of 115 children per 10,000