Caerphilly boys let down

Estyn report blames authority's poor school management for underachievement

poor performance of key stage 3 boys at Caerphilly schools is unlikely to improve until better records are kept.

Inspectors from Estyn gave their verdict in a report on education improvement plans in the Welsh county, saying it had been hindered by a lack of information on individual schools. It awarded a below-par grade 3 when rating the authority for improvement prospects, saying there were "barriers".

It also said questionable behaviour management in some schools was partly to blame. The authority has the lowest percentage of boys attaining grade A*-C GCSEs in Wales.

The report, entitled Caerphilly Local Education Authority School Improvement Including Support for Attendance and Behaviour, also claims the the gap between boys and girls in English across nine schools in the borough is a staggering 20 percentage points.

But short-term exclusions are also rising in Caerphilly, one of the country's most deprived valley communities. Inspectors said this was a strategy by some schools to keep permanent exclusions down.

The report recognises a strong partnership between LAs and schools but it says underachievement is not targeted effectively enough. "Members do not have enough knowledge or understanding of the performance of individual schools to facilitate robust challenge," it comments.

Inspectors also found that monitoring for early identification of underperformance was not "consistent or rigorous enough". Estyn said the LA's performance on school improvement was good with no important shortcomings - a grade 2. But it said the authority must now use performance data, and its own knowledge, to target support and provide clearer details of individual school performance.

Inspectors praised the authority's successful intervention in a number of schools where it provided high-quality and ongoing support and training.

Despite two schools being placed in special measures in the past 12 months, two others already in the category were moved out within two years. There was also praise for measures to help improve performance, including the "school alert" system, a literacy programme in primary schools. It has also introduced a co-ordinated approach to boost maths skills.

The LA said it did not see barriers, only opportunities, and this would enable it to respond quickly to the report's recommendations.

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