Denbighshire in recovery

27th June 2008 at 01:00
After two damning reports there's finally some good news for struggling local authority
After two damning reports there's finally some good news for struggling local authority

Headteachers are reporting improved services in Wales's most beleaguered local education authority. Denbighshire is showing signs of recovery nine months after two damning reports, according to inspectorate Estyn.

Estyn outlined significant failings, mostly with bad management, in a report last September. Cambridge Education, a consultancy firm, also criticised standards.

Alison Duncan, head of Denbigh High School and vice-chair of the county's headteachers' federation, said the authority was now listening to their needs.

"It has appointed good personnel," she said. "Even the interim posts are held by top people."

Estyn's findings, which showed a drop in sixth-form attainment and poor performance in key stages 1, 2 and 4, led to a major shake-up at the authority.

In its latest update, the inspectorate, which monitors the authority every three months, said improved leadership was beginning to make a difference.

In a letter to the council, Estyn said it was now "well placed" to deliver the play-led foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds.

In November, Denbighshire drew up a 40-page action plan aimed at raising standards and school attendance rates over five years. An extra pound;700,000 was found to bring services up to scratch. Since January, it has been expected to deliver monthly reports to a recovery panel set up by Jane Hutt, the education minister.

Hugh Evans, council leader and lead member for education, said: "The feedback from schools shows us that there is more confidence."

A mentoring group has been created to allow councillors, officers and teachers to discuss key issues.

However, one head, who asked not to be named, acknowledged progress had been made but said there was still some way to go to generate goodwill.

He said: "You can't turn things around overnight - it takes time for these roots to develop."

The fallout from the reports led to a vote of no confidence in council leader Rhiannon Hughes and her nine-man cabinet.

At about the same time, corporate director of lifelong learning Huw Griffiths went on indefinite sick leave.

Dr Mohammed Mehmet was appointed as interim director in November and still holds the job.

In Estyn's original report, the county scored a below-par 4 - the next to lowest - in all key service areas. The report said leaders at all levels in the authority had not addressed "robustly and comprehensively enough the continual poor performance of schools".

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