“BLAENAU GWENT children should be educated in Blaenau Gwent”.

Those were the words of a council member, as fears were raised of a post-16 ‘brain drain’ which sees older students leave the county borough to continue their education elsewhere.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council on Thursday, September 30, councillors discussed the authority’s annual assessment performance report for 2020/21 when issues about education cropped up.

The Learning Zone in Ebbw Vale is the only further education establishment in Blaenau Gwent, and is run by Coleg Gwent.

Cllr John C Morgan said: “Some of us are concerned around the performance of the Learning Zone and about the drop in the number of children that go to the zone to do A-levels following GCSEs.

“We want every child to be educated here as much as possible, Blaenau Gwent children should be educated in Blaenau Gwent.”

He believed that up to 150 youngsters had left ther county for other education establishments.

He pointed out that many of these children opted to go to college in Merthyr Tydfil or attend sixth form at Crickhowell High School in Powys.

The Learning Zone’s director of education Lynn Phillips said: “Looking at the data, the performance of the learning zone is encouraging at A-levels.

“From A* to E grades they had a 99 per cent pass rate which is in line with the national average.

“One of the reasons for the Learning Zone was to create a balance between academic and vocational learning opportunities and parity of esteem.

“They are holding their position on the amount of A-levels but the amount of vocational learning is increasing as well. so have more post-16 learners than before.”

“There are issues where learners and parents will decide which establishment they want to be educated in from a post-16 perspective, and that is their choice.”

Mr Phillips added that discussions were taking place between the authority, headteachers and Coleg Gwent to “identify” why some chose not to go to the Learning Zone.

He hoped this would help increase the numbers going to the Learning Zon,.

Mr Phillips added that admissions at Year 7 had risen and this was an indicator that parents “are choosing our secondary schools.”

Cllr Morgan also asked whether Cllr Joanne Collins, the council’s education portfolio holder, had confidence that education standards in Blaenau Gwent were improving, especially in schools that had received critical Estyn inspection reports.

These schools are Abertillery Learning Community an all through 3 to 16 years old school and Brynmawr Foundation School which is comprehensive school.

Cllr Morgan said: “Estyn will be coming back and it’s what they say that counts.”

Replying, Cllr Collins saud: “I am satisfied that the schools in question are making very good progress, we have rigorous processes in place to check this.

“I am confident that good progress is being made.”

Each authority Wales is legally obliged to publish an annual assessment which compares how the council performed, to a number of objectives.

In the document which was approved by councillors, Blaenau Gwent highlights Education as a priority to improve.