The Welsh Government is calling for urgent action to improve education services in Pembrokeshire following two highly critical reports. One identified serious failings in procedures to protect children from abuse, the other criticised the quality of education services. Education Minister Leighton Andrews told Pembrokeshire council it has two months to come up with an action plan. He has launched a crusade against “complacency in the classroom”.
The Welsh Government is sending in a team to monitor Pembrokeshire Council after the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) and school inspections body Estyn identified 25 cases of alleged child abuse in the education services. The investigation was triggered by the case of primary school head teacher David Thorley, who was jailed in 2009 for sex assaults on children in his care. (Details of that case from BBC: Sex assault head teacher jailed). The report criticised the council for its “wholly unacceptable” handling of the child abuse allegations.
The damning conclusions of both reports are likely to bring the overall standards of education in Wales under further scrutiny. Concern about the state of education in Wales was prompted in November by the findings of Pisa (Programme on International Student Assessment) that 15-year-olds in Wales were lagging well behind the rest of the UK and a number of eastern European nations.
School performance in Wales has been under the microscope since international test scores published last December showed 15 year olds were performing below average in reading, maths and science. Estyn’s annual report last year found one in three schools not good enough. And statistics obtained by BBC Wales under the Freedom of Information Act showed GCSE performance in Wales was not only worse than England on average, but worse than every region within England too, including those most similar in socio-economic terms. Some teachers, however, point the finger at the Welsh Government’s policies during 13 years of devolution and the funding gap that means schools receive £600 less per pupil in Wales than in England.