SECONDARY schools in Newport are remaining in special measures or need of improvement for too long, education chiefs have said.

An Estyn report found the performance of secondary schools across the city needs to improve, saying that pupils' progress is "too variable."

Two of three schools placed in statutory categories have remained there "for too long," the education watchdog said.

Sarah Morgan, chief education officer at Newport council, agreed with the verdict but stressed that progress is being made.

"Some secondary schools have been in those categories for too long," Ms Morgan said at a meeting of the council's performance scrutiny committee on Tuesday.

"However I can assure you that these schools are making progress."

Ms Morgan said the council reviews progress made by the schools against recommendations on a half-termly basis.

Newport High School and St Julian's High School are in Estyn special measures, while Llanwern High School was said to need "significant improvement" in January, 2017.

Cllr Gail Giles, cabinet member for education, said 'sustainability' was the council's priority.

She said the council was working with schools to sustain progress.

South Wales Argus:

Cllr Gail Giles

"The last thing we want is for a school to get out of red and then go back in," said Cllr Giles.

"The priority is to get the school to where it needs to be."

School improvement services have also had "insufficient impact" on promoting improvements in a pupil referral unit and the three schools requiring improvement, inspectors said.

Ms Morgan said progress has been made since the inspection in November.

But Cllr Joan Watkins said further work is still needed.

South Wales Argus:

Cllr Joan Watkins

"I am pleased to hear there has been some progress but there still needs to be a lot more done," she added.

Attendance in secondary schools has improved slightly but it remains below the Welsh average.

Newport’s approach to developing Welsh-medium education was "reactive and not strategic enough," the report said.

But more recent plans show "a stronger commitment."

However the report highlighted "strong progress" being made by pupils in primary schools, where improving attendance rates are now in line with the average.

The percentage of pupils who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) has also fallen sharply over the last four years and is now below the Wales average.

Improvements in GCSE performances in subjects such as English and maths over the last three years are also noted in the report.

Clive Phillips, from Estyn, said while there was room for improvement, there are also a lot of positives.

"I think it's a strong report," he said.

"There are lots of good features there and I think the local authority knows itself what it needs to do as well."