TWO underperforming Flintshire primary schools are being recommended for ‘urgent’ improvement measures by inspectors.
Saltney Ferry County Primary School is set to be placed into special measures after it was judged “unsatisfactory” by Estyn inspectors, while Sychdyn Primary School, near Mold, needs “significant improvement”.
Estyn, Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales, sent inspectors to visit both schools in January.
Now letters from the body’s strategic director Meilyr Rowlands to Welsh education Minister Huw Lewis AM, seen by the Leader, say shortcomings at the schools need addressing as a matter of urgency.
Mr Rowlands said of the Saltney Ferry CP School that he agreed with the judgement of inspectors that it requires special measures.
“I’m concerned about the standards of achievement at the school and the important shortcomings identified by the team, including the capacity of leaders and managers to secure the necessary improvements,” he said.
“I’ll be looking to the school to put into place effective measures to address the shortcomings as a matter of urgency.
“Estyn will place the school on a list of schools requiring special measures.”
There are currently no schools in special measures in Flintshire.
The inspection report said the school was “unsatisfactory” with regards to standards, wellbeing, learning experience, teaching, care, support and guidance, learning environment, leadership, improving quality and resource management.
Partnership working at the school was found to be adequate.
Estyn inspectors will carry out termly visits to monitor whether the school is making sufficient progress in implementing the action plan being drawn up to improve the situation.
Mr Rowlands also expressed his concerns about Sychdyn CP School. In a separate letter to Mr Lewis, he said: “Sychdyn has not made enough progress in the key areas for action identified in the Section 28 inspection. Important shortcomings remain.
“The combined weight and seriousness of these shortcomings are such that I’m of the opinion that this school is in need of significant improvement.
“I shall be looking to the school and local authority to put into place effective measures to address the shortcomings in the latest report urgently.
“I’m writing to the school and the local authority to inform them of the need to draw up action plans to address the key issues identified in the report.”
The school had been tasked with improving pupils’ writing, standards and use of numeracy and communication technology and compliance with statutory requirements – all of which the inspection report said have been largely addressed.
However the report shows issues concerning the quality of teaching and assessment, the development of foundation phase provision and health and safety have only been partly addressed.
The previous inspection took place in November 2012 and Estyn inspectors will visit the school again in 12 months time.
Cllr Marion Bateman, a school governor at Sychdyn, said the inspectors’ verdict was largely based on financial difficulties inherited by new head Jane Edwards.
She said: “The new head was facing a tall order when she took over.
“You couldn’t expect her to work miracles in her first year and you might expect Estyn would understand the future potential under her excellent leadership.
“The school has faced financial constraints, a deficit amassed that Jane had reduced.
“The future of the school is much brighter than it has been for years.”
Governors at Saltney Ferry Primary School declined to comment when called by the Leader.
A Flintshire Council spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on individual schools until Estyn has published its findings.
“There are no schools in Flintshire in special measures and recently we have experienced many positive outcomes following Estyn visits.
“We’ll be in a position to comment about support for schools in addressing any shortcomings once the reports have been published by Estyn."
Reacting to the news on both schools, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood said: “As someone whose own children received an excellent education in Flintshire schools, I’m well aware of the mantra that the serious problems which have been identified in schools across Wales do not apply here.
“However, when Estyn School Inspection Reports start highlighting problems as serious as these, it’s clear that all in the garden is not lovely and that serious answers need to be provided by our local education authority.
“Our children deserve the best and it is our duty to make sure that it’s delivered.”