Cwmbran High School.
Cwmbran High School. Credit: Google Street View

Story by Twm Owen, local democracy reporter

AN education chief is “pleased” with a report a school must remain in special measures – five years after being found in need of improvement. 

Andrew Powles, Torfaen Borough Council’s director of education, described information from education inspectors Estyn as pleasing and encouraging despite it finding Cwmbran High School has made “insufficient progress” in addressing recommendations made when it was placed in special measures in December 2018. 

It has published the outcome of its latest follow-up enhanced monitoring visit to the 1,115-pupil school made earlier this term. 

Mr Powles told the council’s education scrutiny committee: “I’m really pleased with the feedback from Estyn. It talks specifically about strong leadership in the school, particularly the senior leadership, and its impact on the quality of teaching and learning and behaviour and some of the strategies the headteacher is pushing through.” 

He added the “detailed” report also discusses issues such as safeguarding and healthy eating at the school. 

Mr Powles said: “It’s really clear the school is making appropriate progress. I’m really encouraged about that.” 

Labour councillor for Cwmbran’s Fairwater ward, Rose Seabourne, said she was unsure at the progress being made as she said Estyn had previously required “improvement at pace”. Cllr Seabourne said: “Six years isn’t very fast” 

Mr Powles said the “new” headteacher has been in post for a year and half and said: “Absolutely progress in previous years wasn’t fast enough, really importantly there were several changes in headship coupled with changes in the approach of teaching and learning.” 

He said Estyn had welcomed how the council had supported the re-establishment of the school’s governing body, having set up an interim executive board in 2019 and then a shadow governing body to re-establish its own governance. 

Deb Harteveld, managing director of the Education Achievement Service that works with Gwent’s schools and councils, said the new leadership is improving the school at an “appropriate pace”. She said: “Six years is way too long.” 

She said the leadership is able to support teachers and teaching assistants and the school had suffered from “restarting and pausing, then restarting and pausing” as heads changed.

There is now “consistent accountability” to “hold people to account in an appropriate, supportive way,” said Ms Harteveld.