Inspectors say Blaenau Gwent's education services are still unsatisfactory, two years after it was put into special measures.
The council says there's been limited time to deliver progress since it was first put in special measures but there are signs of improvement, as Hannah Thomas reports.
The Welsh Government says it's concerned about the slow change of pace to improving education standards in Blaenau Gwent. The council's education services were placed in 'special measures' in 2011.
Today a report by the education inspectorate Estyn says standards are still 'unsatisfactory'.
We are very concerned by Estyn's findings. Performance at the local authority continues to be unsatisfactory and disappointing. The Minister will make a statement to Assembly Members to outline the actions we will be taking with regard to Blaenau Gwent.
"The Minister will meet the Commissioner on Monday. We know she has serious concerns about the pace of change in the local authority and we will discuss the best way forward
Whilst the overall judgement of the report was unsatisfactory it has to be recognised that there has been limited time since the Council was first placed in special measures in September 2011 to deliver progress in many areas.
There are signs of improvement. As a result of the work that the Council and the South East Wales Education Achievement Service (EAS) has been undertaking the Council has more accurate information on schools' performance and is beginning to use the data more systematically.
There has also been good progress in improving attendance in Blaenau Gwent schools. An action plan needs to be prepared now that the Council's inspection report has been published by Estyn today.
The education system in one of the poorest parts of Wales is to remain in 'special measures' as education standards are still 'unsatisfactory'.
The school's inspectorate for Wales, Estyn has released a report today which lists a catalogue of failings which include:
- Standards of attainment are unsatisfactory, particularly in secondary schools
- The number of days lost to exclusion are increasing
- Initiatives for school improvement are too fragmented
- leadership has not generated improvements in areas of underperformance
The report does say attendance rates in primary schools are above average but the capacity to improve overall is unsatisfactory because:
The leadership of local authority services for children and young people continues to be unstable; the pace of action to bring about improvement has been too slow in the past to assure inspectors that improvement will take place without continued external support and challenge
The Welsh Government says there are serious concerns over the pace of change to education standards in Blaenau Gwent. The borough's schools were placed in 'special measures' in September 2011 when its education standards were deemed to be failing children.
A commissioner was appointed to oversee change but a report out today from the schools inspectorate for Wales, Estyn says education services are still 'unsatisfactory'.
In a damning report it says for the last three years Blaenau Gwent's council has not met any of the Welsh Government benchmarks for attainment based on free-school-meal entitlement and the number of days lost to exclusion are increasing.
It adds that officers and school leaders have not been held to account effectively and the pace of change is far too slow. The council has been told it has to provide an action plan in the next 50 days.
The council says there has been good progress in improving attendance in its schools but it says while the overall judgement of the report is unsatisfactory it has to be recognised that there has been limited time to deliver progress in many areas.
People in Ebbw Vale have dug deep and raised thousands of pounds to save abandoned ponies from starvation.
Some animals have already been lost because of a tough winter living wild on Manmoel Common - but volunteers are determined to save the remaining ponies, as Lorna Prichard reports.
John Selwood is one of the volunteers who have been feeding ponies on Manmoel Common. He described the situation as "dire", and warned "without the feeding from us, a lot of the ponies would die."
A valleys community has been raising money to buy hay for hillside ponies struggling as bitter winter conditions continue into spring.
People in Blaenau Gwent have been handing in cash to a local pet shop to help the animals.
Over the last few weeks the in the frosty weather has prevented the grass from growing.
The community has already raised more than £1,500 to help the animals.
South Wales Fire and Rescue are attending a house in King Street, Brynmawr.
Crews from three areas are currently at the scene.
The fire is in the basement of a three storey mid terrace property.
Parents in Ebbw Vale say they can't believe their children could be taught in temporary classrooms, under plans to close a local school.Read the full story ›