A REPORT into Monmouthshire’s education service has found it “provide(s) clear vision and strong focus on ensuring the best possible start in life for learners”, despite concerns over support for disadvantaged pupils.

An Estyn report into Monmouthshire County Council’s education services praised the council’s high expectations and commitment to delivering improvement.

However, the report says education performance by pupils who receive free school meals (FSM) is “generally lower than that of the same group of pupils across Wales” and the exclusion rate for youngsters with special educational needs (SEN) is “too high”.

Vulnerable pupils, however, have made good progress in primary schools, including those pupils with English as an additional language and looked-after pupils.


Overall, students in Monmouthshire education feel safe, the report found.

Estyn sets out for recommendations for the council’s education department, including improving the outcomes for FSM pupils, increasing the number of pupils achieving excellent standards, and a clear strategy for SEN provision.

Support for pupils with SEN

The Estyn report found the council provides schools with “clear guidance” on the support available with SEN.

However, there is a “limited range of information for parents in relation to the SEN services that the local authority provides and how to access them”, and short-term exclusions for these pupils is “too high”.

It says: “Despite improvements in permanent and longer fixed-term exclusion, the rate of short-term exclusions for pupils with SEN is too high.

“The local authority cannot reassure itself that schools are making appropriate adjustments for pupils with SEN.”

The council’s chief officer for children and young people has recently introduced a quality and assurance framework that covers all aspect of schoolwork, which is beginning to be used to highlight the strengths and areas for development on work around SEN in schools.

Support for FSM pupils

Senior leaders at Monmouthshire council have a “clear commitment” to address the performance of FSM pupils, the Estyn report says.

Council officers are currently developing a strategy to improve the performance and attendance of pupils eligible for FSM.

However, the report raises concerns over the focus of the strategy because it doesn’t “focus well enough on specific activities relevant to individual schools or groups of pupils”.

Support for vulnerable students

The report acknowledges Monmouthshire council’s commitment to investing in youth services despite budgetary pressures.

The report praises the council’s youth workers, saying they “empower young people to lead activities and shape the services they receive”.

Vulnerable pupils can benefit from a wide range of activities including events at youth clubs, the Duke of Edinburgh award, outreach work and school holiday activities.

However, the services tend to “struggle to meet the needs of older young people aged 16 to 25.” But there is acknowledgement that the authority is taking suitable action to address these issues.

Leadership and management

The Estyn report recognises that senior council leaders have set a clear vision for education in Monmouthshire and have focused on improving outcomes since the last inspection in 2012.

One of the authority’s key strengths identified in the report is its ability to work with partners such as the Education Achievement Service (EAS).

It says: “This includes the strengthening of how it supports, challenges, monitors and intervenes in schools.

“Senior leaders from the authority play an important strategic role in the quality assurance of the work of the EAS and contribute well to its management, governance and scrutiny.

“Senior officers and elected members understand well the challenges facing the education service.”

The report also highlights the council’s strong safeguarding measures.

It says: “Safeguarding in education services is good. The importance of safeguarding as a corporate responsibility is particularly strong.”

The council’s ability to effectively safeguard means the schools are well supported.


Commenting on the report, council leader Cllr Peter Fox said: “This report shows the tremendous efforts made by everyone involved in educating and safeguarding children and young people in Monmouthshire."

He added: "Over the coming months the SEN strategy will be updated and more detailed information will be gathered through self-evaluation to better inform improvement planning and direct our next steps. I am really optimistic about the future of learning in our schools."

Cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Richard John, added: “I am so pleased to see the progress made in Monmouthshire’s schools has been recognised by Estyn. We are already further developing our plans to improve outcomes for pupils eligible for free school meals, which has been a key focus for us in the recent past.

"We acknowledge that we need to maintain the highest expectations on our learners achieving excellent outcomes."

And the council's chief officer for children and young people Will McLean said: “We know that there are areas we need to develop and focus our attention on. We will redouble our efforts to provide ‘the best possible start in life’ during these challenging times and beyond.”