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A SCHOOL for youngsters with additional learning needs in Blaenau Gwent has been placed into special measures by Estyn, the schools inspectorate.

The River Centre 3-16 Learning Community is an all-through school across three campuses that caters for pupils with social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties from Ebbw Vale, Tredegar, and the surrounding valleys.

A report published by Estyn last week, following an inspection in June, found the school has ““failed to provide an acceptable standard of education for some of the most vulnerable pupils in Wales”.

The damning report gives the school seven recommendations that need to be addressed in an action plan.

“Based on two main campuses, the school largely operates as
separate entities,” it said.

“The result is that there are significant differences in systems, procedures, and processes between sites.

“The school does not operate as a cohesive organisation.

“The systematic collection, collation and analysis of key school performance information is extremely under-developed.

“This seriously impedes the ability of leaders to both report to, and be held accountable by, the governing body.”

Estyn said that the progress of children in their learning and wellbeing at the primary campus in Sirhowy is “stronger” than those that attend the secondary campus in Ebbw Vale.

Staffing and leadership issues were also highlighted.

The report said:

“Over the past 18 months, there have been significant and wholesale changes to governance, leadership and staffing and these have had a detrimental impact on the learning experiences, well‑being and outcomes for pupils.

“Staff too have been affected by these changes but generally remain committed to the pupils.”

Estyn also pointed out that children had faced “significant disruption” to their education this year.

Estyn said:

“During the spring term of 2022 senior leaders at the time determined that, for health and safety reasons, pupils should not attend the school, and arrangements were made for them to attend alternative providers.

“Overall, attendance at these providers was low.

“Year 11 pupils missed a crucial part of their education whilst preparing to sit

“This is a significant cause for concern.”

The Estyn report was touched upon at a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, September 21.

Director of education Lynn Phillips said that his department were supporting “schools causing concern” with the “team around the school” approach.

“The River Centre has formally been categorised in special measures and will be a real focus for us,” said Mr Phillips.

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Sue Edmunds added that the school will: “require further support.”

The seven recommendations the school needs to address are:

Address those issues identified in the health and safety letter;

Establish a clear purpose and vision for the school and implement a staffing
structure that is fit for purpose and adequately reflects roles and responsibilities;

Ensure that the curriculum is sufficiently engaging, broad and balanced and
prepares pupils well for their next stage in life and learning;

Improve the behaviour of pupils, particularly on the secondary campus;

Improve the quality of the learning environment and culture, particularly on the
secondary campus;

Improve the outcomes for pupils, particularly those on the secondary campus;

Establish systems, procedures and routines across the school that are clearly
understood by staff and relevant partners.

Estyn will monitor the school’s progress on a term by term basis.

The education watchdog is also due to inspect Blaenau Gwent’s education service in November and a report is expected to be published in the new year.

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