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Conwy schools in excellent shape

Conwy's schools are among the most well-maintained in Wales, according to Estyn inspectors.

Many authorities are struggling to get on top of multi-million pound repair bills to meet a ministerial goal of ensuring all school buildings are "fit for purpose" by 2010.

But Estyn found that Conwy's maintenance backlog is "one of the lowest in Wales at pound;8 million".

This compares with around pound;29m in neighbouring Flintshire and Pounds 50-60m in Powys.

Estyn was inspecting Conwy's "promoting access" service, which covers school places, property management, admissions, home-to-school transport and the promotion of race equality.

The report said Conwy had combined a range of sources of capital funding to tackle repairs. Significant work has been carried out at 50 of its 63 primary schools and a private finance initiative project refurbished three of the seven secondary schools.

"The authority is better placed than most other Welsh authorities to meet the target that, by 2010, all schools should be fit for purpose," said the report.

Conwy has kept on top of repairs by maintaining comprehensive information about the condition of school buildings. It uses software packages to help data management and works closely with headteachers who have agreed to pool funds earmarked for repairs.

"Schools regard themselves as part of a wider team," said the report, "and are willing to contribute to this pool because they are confident that work across the county will be prioritised well."

The inspection agency also praised Conwy for a significant reduction in the number of school places that depend on temporary accommodation.

And it noted that the proportion of surplus places in primary and secondary schools is lower than the Welsh average.

There was a very low level of appeals in relation to school admissions, said Estyn, with Conwy managing to provide most parents with a place for their children at their preferred schools.

School transport was "generally reliable and punctual", and effective measures had been taken to improve pupil behaviour on journeys. But Estyn said Conwy had to tackle the overall increase in the total number of unfilled school places and some behavioural problems in home-to-school taxis.

Surplus places in the primary sector stand at around 18 per cent. Last year there were 9.2 per cent surplus places in secondary schools. The report also urged the authority to improve the monitoring of schools' compliance with statutory racial equality requirements.

The inspectors were confident these matters could be addressed because the LEA enjoyed a "frank and open debate" with schools. The authority aims to reduce surplus capacity by 10 per cent by 2010 and is carrying out a consultation on small, rural schools.

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