THREE experts will descend on Gwent’s most challenged schools this year as part of a £20 million Welsh Government push to drive up standards quickly.
Two of the experts, recruited from some of Britain’s best schools, will focus on improving Abertillery Comprehensive, Ebbw Fawr Learning Community and Tredegar Comprehensive as part of Schools Challenge Cymru.
Out of a list of 40 Welsh schools, 15 Gwent schools will be visited by the three advisers for between 50 and 200 hours a month, including Bedwas High, Blackwood Comprehensive, Heolddu Comprehensive, St Cenydd, St Martin’s, Llanwern High, Lliswerry High, St Julian’s, Abersychan Comprehensive, Fairwater High, Llantarnam and West Monmouth School.
The two-year Schools Challenge Cymru scheme is the latest in a series of measures to drive up Welsh exam results, following critical reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and poor international Pisa rankings in maths, English and science.
The cash is for 40 of Wales’ “most challenged” schools – not necessarily the country’s “worst” schools, as some of them are not in the lowest Welsh Government rankings or “bands”, Blaenau Gwent’s education scrutiny panel heard at their meeting on Tuesday.
“Blaenau Gwent is very fortunate to have three of our schools as part of this programme,” said the authority’s interim director of education Trevor Guy, adding that they would be known as Pathway to Success schools.
He stressed this is “not an injection of cash into school budgets”, but said staff would see results after agreeing a plan with their adviser.
“It is sort of like a voucher system,” he said. “There will be no wads of fivers floating around.”
On Monday the authority will take part in an all-day conference with Welsh Government, briefing them about the programme.
Welsh schools are lagging behind England, Scotland and Northern Ireland especially at Key Stages 3 and 4 and there is “a strong political imperative for this to succeed,” he said.
Blaenau Gwent’s advisers, jointly chosen by Welsh Government and Gwent’s Education Achievement Service (EAS), have been named as Ceri Morgan, an Ofsted inspector in England who’ll visit Ebbw Fawr and Abertillery, and in Tredegar, Tom Johnston, a head teacher at a West Midlands school held up by Ofsted as one of the best in the country.
The third Gwent adviser has not yet been named.
“We’ve been talking about how Brynmawr can be brought into the fold and benefit from this as well,” said Mr Guy.
“Blaenau Gwent has done well out of this.
The programme is designed to have an “immediate effect” on next September’s results, he said, before a brand new format for teaching GCSE exams kicks in.