THE head of the regional body tasked with helping to bring Monmouthshire's education department out of special measures has predicted the county will see its best ever exam results in the autumn.
Monmouthshire councillors quizzed Steve Davies, head of the South East Wales Education Achievement Service (EAS) at a meeting last week.
Mr Davies, head of the EAS which was set up in September 2012, was asked by members of Monmouthshire's education scrutiny panel what the EAS is doing "over and above" to help the county's troubled education department.
He said his staff set to work on improving the quality of self-evaluation at Monmouthshire's schools, governor training, and foundation phase training in response to a damning Estyn inspection which landed the county in the inspectorate's lowest category in February last year.
"There was a need in Monmouthshire for increased focus on more able pupils," he said.
Cllr Peter Farley, ward member for Chepstow, St Mary's, said to Mr Davies: "It must be in itself a challenge to be leading an organisation three-fifths of whose customers are in special measures. How did you treat us as one of three needing a particular kind of support?"
Mr Davies, whose organisation was established by the five Gwent authorities and whose work has been copied across Wales, said regular meetings with head teachers and also with Estyn had helped to demonstrate that the EAS was making a difference in Monmouthshire.
"In terms of the potential for children to achieve at higher levels in Monmouthshire, they are far greater, there are not the levels of deprivation [here]," he said.
Of areas where the authority still needs to improve Mr Davies said: "Additional learning needs should be strengthened and that's a key aspiration moving forward.
"I believe we have made good progress and [if results go as expected] these will be the best set of results Monmouthshire has had," he said. "But that's not enough. It bodes well to show to Estyn we've made progress. In the main [schools] need to be congratulated for levels of progress but at the same time we need to be ambitious.
"We need to do more work across the board, I'm not satisfied with the levels of achievement across the key stages," he said. "Work continues to be done at key stage four because the gap was wider when we started out."