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.
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The Education Minister has commended the efforts of staff who are working to improve standards at Blaenau Gwent schools.
The local education authority has been in special measures since last July, and since then the county's schools have been run by appointed commissioners.
Indications from both the monitoring visit and the views of key stakeholders is that although progress in Blaenau Gwent was initially slow across the range of recommendations, more recently the pace and focus of change have improved. There have been considerable efforts by staff at all levels and in partner agencies to make change happen. Although, the direction of travel is broadly right, much important work remains to be done by the local authority, if it is to secure sustainable capacity.
The Education Minister's statement confirms that education watchdog, Estyn, will re-inspect Blaenau Gwent early in 2013, to monitor its progress.
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