EDUCATION watchdog Estyn told Powys County Council’s (PCC) Education service that it will be judged at a future official monitoring visit.

Lead inspector Tony Bate told the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Wednesday, October 30, that there could be a series of meetings to discuss PCC’s plans to answer the five recommendations set out in the critical Estyn report, published in September.

Mr Bate said: “We will return towards the end of November to facilitate what’s called an improvement conference, which is the beginning of the process of follow up with the authority.

“In that meeting we will be looking at the initial planning for improvement that is proposed.

“We will spend most of the day picking through the plan and make comments, suggestions, challenge and evaluate. After that there will be a progress conference.

“And we will meet again and consider the overall progress the authority is making to meet those recommendations. We will not be looking outside those recommendations.”

Mr Bate added that decision would be made at the progress conference, to either have another meeting or go straight to a monitoring inspection.

“The end however of the process is the monitoring visit, that is when we decide on overall progress,” said Mr Bate.

The scrutiny committee had expected to see the Post Inspection Action Plan (PIAP) which will form the basis of the crunch meeting next month.

But the members were told that it wasn’t ready yet and the discussion looked at the broader issues that education needs to solve

New education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies, fought back tears as he expressed his “alarm” as he read the report for the first time

Cllr Davies said: “I go back to the notes that I made on my first sight of the report.

“In summary it’s alarming and I have written alarm a lot times, and significant concerns is a common theme.”

Cllr Davies went through the report pointing out how bad it was including “weak leadership”.

“Corporate and political, that is huge,” said Cllr Davies.

Cllr Davies continued: “We have not had strong leadership corporately within the service or consistency and we have a lot to answer as members in terms of political leadership not just from the lead member for education.”

He pointed out that problems were known in previous reports back in 2007 and 2011.

“Why has it taken us so long to deal with it?” asked Cllr Davies.

Cllr Davies went on give feedback from the Schools Conference held last week as a reaction to the report.

Cllr Davies said “The headteachers from the floor asked us to make political decisions.

“The will is in schools for transforming and reorganising, this cannot be done piecemeal, it has to be whole county and has to be radical change.

“All I can say is that we fully accept the findings, fully understand the severity and are fully committed to tackle these.”

“I told the conference that if decisions had not been consulted on next summer and decisions made for summer 2021, we have failed.”

Committee chair, Cllr Peter Roberts (Liberal Democrat – Llandrindod South), said: “I am reassured by your response now, that you will try to be far more radical than your predecessor.”

Chief executive Dr Caroline Turner told the committee that work on the PIAP was “90 per cent there”.

Dr Turner said “We need to be aware that we have significant improvement to make here and it can’t be done overnight.

“I expect this journey to take at least two years, and we have to do it properly so that the improvements we make are sustainable.”

The recommendations are:

Improve standards in secondary schools, and especially the performance of more able learners.

Improve the evaluation, planning and co-ordination of provision for learners with special educational needs and other pupils who may require extra support.

 Improve the consistency and impact of senior leaders in improving the quality of education services and continue to strengthen the rigour, scrutiny and challenge about performance of the authority’s services.

Ensure that the organisation of provision for non-maintained, post 16, Welsh medium education and secondary education meets the needs of the children and young people of Powys.

Continue to improve the quality of financial management in schools and take appropriate action to address schools with significant deficit budgets.