£40m school ‘needs to improve standards’
STANDARDS at a new £40 million super-school need improvement, according to inspectors.
Ysgol Bae Baglan in Port Talbot had its first inspection by Estyn in November and the results have now been published.
The education watchdog rated it good in four of the five areas looked at, including teaching, but overall standards were only adequate and in need of improvement.
Inspectors found that teenage boys and the relatively high proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals in years 10 and 11 at the school do worse than peers at similar schools. But girls are doing better than those in similar schools.
The report by Estyn shows that more than 30% of pupils are eligible for free school meals at the school, far higher than the national average of 16.4% for secondary schools and 18% for primary schools in Wales. More than twothirds of pupils at the 1,512-pupil school live in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales.
The new-build school for pupils aged three to 16 opened in 2016 after the amalgamation of Cwrt Sart, Glan Afan and Sandfields comprehensive schools and Traethmelyn primary. At primary level inspectors found the majority of pupils aged seven to 11 do not use a rich enough variety of language to express themselves and do not have sufficiently developed reading skills.
It found that about half of pupils aged seven to 11 have poor handwriting, don’t present their work with enough care and do not use their literacy skills well enough. For older pupils performance also appears to be dropping and does not rate well with other similar schools.
In years 10 and 11, when pupils are aged 14 to 16 and preparing for and taking GCSES, performance in the level two threshold of five GCSES A* to C, including English and maths, was above average for similar schools in 2017.
But Estyn warned that provisional results for 2018 show a decline which would place the school well below similar schools.
Performance of boys aged 14 to 16 in nearly all indicators is below the average for boys in similar schools and “performance of pupils eligible for free school meals is below the average for their counterparts in similar schools in all indicators,” inspectors said.
“At key stage 4 (years 10 and 11), the performance of boys in nearly all indicators is below the average for boys in similar schools.
“Girls’ performance in 2017 is above the average for girls in similar schools in many indicators.
“The performance of pupils eligible for free school meals is below the average for their counterparts in similar schools in all indicators,” the inspection document says.
Higher achievers appear to be doing well, though. The proportion of pupils who gain five GCSE or equivalent grades at A*-A was above that in similar schools in 2017 and provisionally in 2018.
Inspectors add Ysgol Bae Baglan is supportive and inclusive, most pupils enjoy coming to school and many have a positive attitude towards learning.
Rating teaching and learning experiences as good, inspectors said in a few instances teaching is not consistently effective enough but most teachers provide pupils with useful written feedback.
Care, support and guidance, leadership and wellbeing and attitudes to learning were all also rated good.
Leaders have also worked well bringing the schools together as one, inspectors say in the document: “Following the amalgamation of the four schools, leaders and managers have worked successfully to create an allage school that is the hub of the community.
“Staff, pupils, parents and governors contributed effectively to creating a vision for a positive, caring and highly inclusive learning community.”
The school will now draw up an action plan and Estyn has made four recommendations on how the school can improve: Improve standards of pupils’ literacy, numeracy and ICT skills across the school; improve the impact of feedback and assessment on helping pupils to improve their work; ensure self-evaluation and improvement processes focus more precisely on pupils’ learning across the school and; improve opportunities for pupils’ to use the Welsh language outside Welsh lessons.