Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council must do more to help local primary teachers and secondary teachers raise educational standards, the Welsh education watchdog has warned.
In May 2011, Estyn rated both the council's education services and their capacity for improvement as 'unsatisfactory' and placed it under special measures.
Now Estyn has produced another report into the local authority, stating attainment levels in its schools are still unsatisfactory, especially at secondary level, while initiatives to drive improvement have suffered from fragmentation and a lack of effective leadership.
Moreover, the watchdog was sceptical about prospects for improvement in Blaenau Gwent, due to instability and poor performance within education services' leadership, as well as the previously slow pace of change and weak self-evaluation processes.
Estyn did, however, mention some evidence of progress, including better primary school attendance, a more systematic approach to school improvement and the establishment of partnerships with neighbouring local authorities designed to increase capacity and expertise.
The watchdog made a number of recommendations to the council going forward, including raising standards at all key stages, implementing a stronger leadership structure and using all of its powers to improve underperforming schools more quickly.
Responding to the report, the council acknowledged it still had much work to do but stressed it has only had a limited amount of time to make improvements as yet and highlighted that some progress had been made and Estyn had recognised this.
Its director of education James Harris commented: "All those involved in the delivery of education in Blaenau Gwent Council both centrally and in schools recognise the need for an urgent and significant improvement in performance.
"The council is working closely with the [south-east Wales Education Achievement Service] to support schools so that the attainment and achievement of pupils is maximised."
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Wales' education minister Leighton Andrews also identified some improvements that had been made at Blaenau Gwent but admitted the extent of change required in the council's corporate culture had been "underestimated".
Posted by Alan Douglas