Chief Inspector reports some improvement in education, but significant challenges remain

The performance of education in Wales is showing some signs of improvement, according to the Chief Inspector’s Annual Report 2013-2014, published today. Attendance rates are improving, whilst the proportion of pupils who are persistently absent is declining. The gap in performance between pupils eligible for free school meals and other pupils is narrowing slightly and the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training declined this year.

Ann Keane, Chief Inspector, says,

“A number of important indicators suggest that the efforts of the education sector are having a positive impact on learners. However, significant challenges remain.

“It is disappointing that standards in primary schools have declined. The proportion of good or excellent schools has fallen from seven in ten last year, to just over six in ten this year.

“Secondary schools have improved, although from a relatively weak position last year. In the academic year 2013-2014, no secondary schools required special measures, compared with six in the previous year.

“The quality of leadership remains a challenge. Over the last five years, there have been encouraging signs that leaders and managers are beginning to take a broader view of their roles and responsibilities. The ability of leaders to think beyond their own institution is a key feature of what is required to improve our education system.

“Although Wales still lags behind other nations, there is a new momentum for improvement and this must continue if young people are to develop as fully as they can and shape our country’s future.”

Although standards in the primary schools inspected declined, they are still better overall than secondary schools. Inspectors identified weaknesses in pupils’ numeracy skills and standards in Welsh second language, which have not improved since last year.

Secondary schools have made progress in several areas, including outcomes, pupil wellbeing, the provision for improving pupils’ skills, teaching and learning and leadership. There remains in nearly all secondary schools, even in the best, a general need to improve standards in mathematics and numeracy and the provision for more able and talented pupils.

As in previous years, standards in maintained special schools and independent schools are particularly strong. However, concerns remain about pupil referral units which are notably weaker than other sectors.

All local authorities have now been inspected and it is concerning that eight are still being monitored, of which half require special measures. However, this year Estyn removed five local authorities from categories requiring follow-up and progress in using collaboration between authorities and between schools to improve provision was notable in these authorities.

Estyn did not inspect any further education institutions during 2013-2014, but monitoring visits revealed that broadly, most learners do well. In work-based learning, standards are marginally better than they were last year. Learner outcomes in the two adult and community learning providers we inspected are some of the best in the sector.

Ann Keane continues,

“Learners who are at risk of underachieving are a particular focus of my annual report this year, and I urge all leaders, managers, teachers and other professionals to read my findings. Case studies of best practice can be found throughout the report and a short film of the main messages provides a quick overview.”

Notes to Editors

Best practice case studies

Fingers and Thumbs Day Care Centre, p110
Porthcawl Comprehensive School, p77

Herbert Thompson Primary School, p21 & 44

Ceredigion Pupil Referral Unit, p104
Ysgol Aberporth, p141

Ysgol y Foryd, p29

Rhyl High School, p57

Castell Alun High School, p73
St Winefride’s Playgroup, p28

Monmouth School, p94
Tiny Beginnings Day Nursery, p109

Eveswell Primary school, p59 & 65
High Cross Primary School, p31 & 69

Mount Street Infants School, p52

Rhondda Cynon Taf
Miskin Primary School, p30

Birchgrove Comprehensive School, p44
Cefn Hengoed Community School, p56

Llanyrafon Primary School, p64
Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, p75

Vale of Glamorgan
Barry Island Primary School, p50

St Christopher’s Special School, p80

About Estyn

Estyn is the Education and Training Inspectorate for Wales. Our aim is to achieve excellence for all in learning in Wales. We do this by providing an independent, high-quality inspection and advice service.

Our vision is to be recognised through the expertise of our staff as an authoritative voice on learning in Wales.

We are independent from, but funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (under Section 104 of the Government of Wales Act 1998).

For further information please visit our website

Publication date

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015