Back from brink but facing closure

8th February 2008 at 00:00
Cardiff school that battled special measures is now fighting to survive.

With 356 temporary exclusions in one year, poor GCSE results and high truancy rates, there seemed little hope for Llanederyn High School when it was placed in special measures in May 2006.

But the Cardiff secondary has bounced back to address the severe shortcomings, detailed by Estyn, that led to its constant monitoring.

Staff were jubilant this week as it was officially announced that the school has finally been lifted out of special measures. Head Tony Evans said the achievement had been due to a united effort by all.

However, the school now faces the axe as part of Cardiff local authority's reorganisation plans.

With consultation now closed, a decision will be made this autumn. Under current plans, no more Year 7s will be admitted to the school from September. But the governing body has devised alternative proposals, sayng that closure would drive down educational standards in the Welsh capital.

TES Cymru can reveal that a letter was sent last December to Chris Jones, Cardiff's chief officer of schools and lifelong learning, by the school's chair of governors, Alwyn Morgan, detailing the plans.

The body believes LHS can claw itself back from its position in the bottom 25 per cent of schools with similar pupil intake in Wales to become a centre of excellence.

It also believes it can attract parents back after its remarkable recovery, which has seen attendance rates leap from 85 per cent in 2005 to 91.5 per cent last year. GCSE grades A*-C have gone up from 29 per cent in 2005 to 36 per cent last summer. Pupils gaining A*-G has risen from 78 per cent in 2005 to 83 per cent last year.

The letter says: "We presume the closure proposals were set in the context of the challenges at LHS - finances, falling rolls, special measures and the lack of a permanent head. I am thrilled by considerable improvements recently."

The governing body's proposals include two schools on the current site - LHS and a Welsh-medium school - and a dynamic new head.

According to Mr Morgan, closure would increase truancy, with disaffected pupils being less inclined to take a longer journey to school.

A council spokesperson said: "Llanederyn High was identified for closure some 18 months before it went into special measures. The current plan is based on a mismatch between the number of places we need and those available.

"We regret the school went into special measures, but the council has acted to secure improvement. Our regular monitoring visits, and Estyn's, suggest good progress.

"Even if closure occurs, it won't be for some time. We will fully support recruiting a new head."


Julia Longville and her team of inspectors saw unruly pupils as the root cause of problems at Llanederyn High School (pictured left).

Classes were taken hostage by pupils who would not wait to take their turn, were unwilling to listen and had little interest.

But the inspection team also criticised the quality of teaching. Shortcomings were found in 22 per cent of lessons.

One high point in pupil performance was art and drama, where standards were good overall. There were also improvements in some GCSE results, confirmed in better overall results for 2006, released post-inspection.

Extra funding of pound;72,000 was given directly to the school within the Assembly government's RAISE fund this academic year.

The cash was awarded because the secondary currently has 27 per cent of pupils entitled to free school meals.

The school may well have been sent into special measures after the Estyn inspection, but it was already on the road to recovery.

Photograph: West Digital.

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