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Providers that have made rapid improvement

When inspectors identify serious shortcomings in the quality and consistency of teaching, and the effectiveness of leadership overall at the time of the core inspection, providers are placed in follow-up. For schools and PRUs, there are two statutory categories of follow-up, namely requiring special measures (SM) or in need of significant improvement (SI), as well as a non-statutory category of Estyn review (ER). Other sectors have different arrangements, but all have levels of follow-up. Inspectors then monitor the improvements that the providers make over time. We continue to monitor a provider until the improvements are robust enough to have an impact on outcomes for learners, and leaders demonstrate an improved capacity to bring about further improvements. Twenty-seven providers in statutory categories met these criteria and were removed from follow-up in 2021-2022. Details of these providers can be found here. In addition, 39 providers across all sectors were removed from non-statutory follow-up.

Valuable lessons can be learned from providers that have been removed from follow-up. These include lessons about how to make rapid progress and what does and doesn’t work in terms of supporting improvement.

What were the key improvements inspectors noted when providers were removed from further follow-up?

  • Leaders had a clear, shared vision and high expectations for the provision, based on strong collaboration amongst teachers and other practitioners. See Plasnewydd Primary School’s cameo.
  • There was improved leadership capacity, and a resilient, well-focused, stable leadership team. Leaders had focused on building leadership capacity and planning for succession through professional learning. See Ysgol Bryn Celyn’s cameo. This resource provides self-reflection questions on how improving providers can build their leadership capacity.
  • There were improved, supportive professional relationships and sense of teamwork among staff at all levels. Leaders supported teachers to reflect on practice and respond positively to recommendations highlighted in the initial core inspection report. See Ysgol Bryn Alyn’s cameo.
  • Staff shared a clear understanding of good quality teaching and learning. They took professional responsibility for improving the quality of their own practice. See Croesyceiliog School’s cameo. This resource provides self-reflection questions on how improving providers can focus on high quality classroom provision.
  • Leaders came to understand the importance of ensuring that the curriculum met the needs of their learners and their community. 
  • There was robust monitoring by leaders at all levels that led to accurate evaluations of what was and wasn’t working well, and fed directly into improvement priorities and professional learning.
  • Everyone, including the learners, understood the importance of good behaviour and attitudes to learning, and regular attendance. 
  • Worthwhile professional learning focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning.

When a provider is removed from follow-up, there is clear evidence that nearly all learners are beginning to make the progress they should. This is because they are engaged in their learning, have positive attitudes and behave well. Teachers plan worthwhile learning activities that take good account of learners’ starting points and challenge all learners appropriately.

  • There was a willingness among leaders to adjust improvement plans and actions based on up-to-date information and evidence. In particular, leaders in these provisions introduced flexible process and were responsive enough to adjust their plans as a result of the impact of COVID‑19 and their likely ability to implement their original planned actions. See Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes’ cameo.
  • Leaders prioritised wisely. They understood that they could not do everything at once and focused first on what needed most attention. See Tŷ Gwyn Education Centre’s cameo.
  • Leaders did not ‘jump on every bandwagon’. They came to understand that introducing too many strategies and not tailoring strategies to the context of the school or provider could overwhelm staff and learners and become counterproductive. See Adult Learning Wales’ cameo.
  • Where appropriate, local authorities successfully used their statutory powers to impose additional, experienced governors to join the existing board. These arrangements were generally successful in developing the capacity of the governing body. In a very few schools in special measures, IEBs (interim executive boards) replaced the governing body to provide strategic direction and appropriate challenge and support to the school’s leadership. IEBs operate for a defined period of time before transferring governance arrangements back to a governing body.
  • In both schools and PRUs, there were strengthened working relationships with the local authority, including robust multiagency working that provided a coordinated approach to meeting the diverse range of learners’ needs in specialist provisions. In non-maintained settings, close working with local authority support teachers and umbrella organisations to provide staff training had a positive impact on staff confidence and expertise. See Powys County Council Education Service’s cameo.

Most often, when providers are ready to be removed from follow-up, inspectors note a relentless focus across the provision on improving the quality of classroom practice. Teaching and learning are the provider’s clear, core purpose and integral to the vision. Everyone has high expectations of what learners can achieve, and learners have appropriately high aspirations for their futures.

  • There were improved relationships with stakeholders and providers sought and acted on the views of learners, staff and parents in particular. See Abertillery Learning Community’s cameo.
  • In non-maintained settings particularly, there was a clear focus on providing children with opportunities for unhindered play. Practitioners used indoor and outdoor space and resources to encourage children to develop self-confidence, making decisions for themselves. Practitioners were becoming more aware of the importance of supporting play, intervening where appropriate to support a particular skill. See Cylch Meithrin Llannerch-y-medd’s cameo.
  • In these settings, leaders responded appropriately to issues of non-compliance raised by CIW inspectors during joint inspections, to ensure that they complied fully with national minimum standards for regulated childcare.

How have providers achieved these improvements?

The case studies below provide examples of how these providers brought about improvements, to the point of being removed from further follow-up activity.

Provider: Cylch Meithrin Llannerch-y-medd

Level of follow-up: Estyn monitoring

Removed: December 2021

Leaders at Cylch Meithrin Llannerch-y-medd have established a clear vision for the setting based on providing a wide and enriching range of experiences for the children. They have established self-evaluation processes, which include all stakeholders and provide the setting with manageable priorities for improvement. As they develop their approach to delivering the curriculum for non-maintained settings, they have raised the expectations of practitioners and have provided opportunities for professional learning. They work closely with the local authority’s advisory teachers, and with umbrella organisations, such as the Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, to introduce elements of responsive planning, and to develop practitioners’ confidence. They now make far more effective use of the different learning areas, creating a stimulating environment for the children to play. They have shared their work with other settings across the authority.

Provider: Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes

Level of follow-up: Significant improvement

Removed: November 2021

As in many other schools during this academic year, the COVID-19 pandemic affected Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes’ ability to implement improvements. Leaders demonstrated sound judgement when adjusting their improvement plans, such as by changing the timeframe for implementing some activities or using technology to better support their improvement goals. Although the pandemic restricted the opportunities for direct monitoring, leaders, including the governors, continued to evaluate important aspects virtually. For example, they scrutinised the quality of distance learning provision to identify what was good and what needed to improve. Leaders created a bespoke school improvement plan that includes the core inspection recommendations as well as other priorities. Leaders monitored their progress against the actions carefully, clearly stating what had been achieved and what the next steps would be. As a result of robust self-evaluation procedures, the school made good progress against the core inspection recommendations.

Provider: Tŷ Gwyn Education Centre

Level of follow-up: Special measures

Removed: November 2021

At Tŷ Gwyn Education Centre, the introduction of trauma-informed approaches and practice has contributed significantly to improvements in provision across the PRU This has been achieved through professional development for all staff, including accreditation as trauma-informed practitioners. The therapeutic model of support and intervention for pupils is a strength. The model is enhanced greatly by the assistant educational psychologists based full-time at the PRU. This approach deepens staff understanding of pupil behaviour and impacts in turn on increased levels of pupil engagement and progress.

Provider: Croesyceiliog School

Level of follow-up: Estyn review / Special measures

Removed: November 2021

Croesyceiliog School was inspected in 2018 and placed in non-statutory follow-up (Estyn review). When inspectors re-visited in 2020, progress was found to be too slow and the school was deemed to require special measures. An executive headteacher was appointed, who quickly developed a clear vision for the school’s improvement. Roles and responsibilities at senior and middle leader level were refined to make best use of the existing staff, and these leaders ensured that the school’s improvement work had a sustained focus on developing effective classroom practice. Valuable professional learning activities helped leaders to develop their capacity to accurately evaluate their areas of responsibility, especially the effectiveness of teaching. This enabled them to identify precisely the specific aspects that required development.

The strategic direction provided by the executive headteacher helped staff to work collaboratively, for example by regularly sharing good practice. As a result, the school made rapid progress against the recommendations from the core inspection.

Provider: Plasnewydd Primary School

Level of follow-up: Special measures

Removed: October 2021

Plasnewydd Primary School was placed in special measures following the core inspection in 2018. The school was removed from further follow-up in 2021. Following a period of leadership turbulence, all staff now understand and accept their roles and responsibilities but know that they will be held to account for any underperformance where appropriate. Teachers and support staff appreciate the support, coaching and mentoring that they receive from leaders to help them to do their best for the pupils in their classes. Leaders now have the confidence to tackle any underperformance robustly. However, they also ensure that they balance addressing underperformance with support for their colleagues, for example when teachers move to classes in unfamiliar age groups, or when temporary staff cover for absence.

This collaboration between staff and leaders, along with clear, high expectations of everyone to do their best, has contributed to the school’s improvements over time. Together, these actions have helped to build a culture where all staff relish their core responsibility for the education and progress of pupils in their class, and across the school. This shared culture supports everyone to become ‘#proud to be Plas’.

Provider: Bryn Celyn Primary School

Level of follow-up: Significant improvement / Special measures

Removed: 2014 and revisited in 2022

Bryn Celyn Primary School in Cardiff was placed into significant improvement, and then special measures, following its core inspection in 2011. The school serves an area of significant deprivation where the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is around 74%. The school was removed from statutory follow-up in 2014, following three years of regular monitoring from Estyn and intensive support for the local authority and regional consortium.

When inspectors returned in 2022 to complete a core inspection, the school had improved markedly and did not require any follow-up. Nearly all staff had remained at the school, including the headteacher, creating a cohesive, well-focused culture of collaboration. Leaders have established a strong partnership with parents that has been highly successful in raising pupils’ aspirations. Inspectors found a much-strengthened focus on pupil achievement and, as a result, significant well-embedded improvements to the quality of teaching and classroom practice.

Provider: Abertillery Learning Community

Level of follow-up: Significant improvement

Removed: February 2022

At Abertillery Learning Community, after a period of staffing instability, the headteacher and senior leadership team provide strong leadership that is committed to securing high quality teaching and provision for pupils of all ages. They strengthened arrangements for self-evaluation and improvement planning across the school. As a result of more robust monitoring and appropriate professional learning, teaching across the school has improved and had a positive impact on pupils’ progress, behaviour and attitudes to learning. Staff have a good understanding of what is expected of them and what they can expect from leaders. This has helped to improve the morale of staff, create a sense of teamwork across the school and raise expectations around what pupils can achieve. Leaders also strengthened their arrangements for consulting with pupils on many aspects of the school’s work, which led to notable changes to the school’s provision and general improvement.

Provider: Ysgol Bryn Alyn

Level of follow-up: Special measures

Removed: October 2021

Ysgol Bryn Alyn had been in special measures for just under a year when the current headteacher was appointed in 2018. She focused initially on ensuring that pupils and staff felt pride in being members of the school community, improving pupil behaviour and strengthening leadership. Over the course of three years, and particularly during the pandemic, she worked on forging a sense of teamwork across the school. This was crucial to the school’s improvement and helped to change the culture and ethos of the school. To support positive pupil behaviour, the school revised its curriculum so that there is now a broader range provision to meet pupils’ differing needs and interest.

Leaders also introduced a new behaviour policy and developed internal provision and support strategies to help disaffected pupils. The roles and responsibilities of leaders were clarified and distributed appropriately. Professional learning around aspects such as self-evaluation, improvement planning and being a leader has helped leaders to better undertake their roles and have a clearer understanding of the strengths and areas for development within their areas of responsibility. Governors recognised that in the past they had not been sufficiently aware of what was happening in the school. They now ensure that they are well informed and challenge the school more effectively.

Provider: Adult Learning Wales

Level of follow-up: Estyn review

Removed: June 2021

Adult Learning Wales was inspected in January 2019 and placed in Estyn review. The provider was removed from the list of providers requiring Estyn review in June 2021, following a desk-based review of evidence on progress made since the inspection.

Following the core inspection, the provider responded swiftly to the recommendations contained in the inspection report by widening the participation of staff and external partners in self-evaluation processes and improvement planning. Leaders also implemented a range of initiatives to improve the ways in which tutors shared good practice and resources across the organisation. These included improvements to online resource areas and the introduction of lead tutor roles.

Leaders gave particular attention to improving the quality of information and guidance relating to supporting learners with additional learning needs (ALN) and to ensuring that all staff received appropriate training on ALN. For example, staff now make good use of clear flow-charts that provide tutors with an easy reference tool to help them understand how and when to apply for help for self-referring and identified learners requiring ALN support. This helped to improve access to additional learning support. Tutors also benefited from useful training to help them identify learners with ALN and to adapt their teaching approaches to provide more effective support.

Provider: Powys County Council Education Services

Level of follow-up: Significant concern

Removed: October 2021

Following our monitoring visit in the autumn term, we judged that Powys education services had made sufficient progress to be removed from our list of local authorities causing significant concern. Officers and elected members had responded well to the findings of the core inspection, acknowledged the challenges they faced and worked quickly to begin to address the recommendations that we made.

The chief executive appointed a new director of education who strengthened the relationship between the education service and schools. A positive feature has been that, although the improvement work was at an early stage at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, officers and elected members maintained a robust focus on the implementation of the improvement strategies at the same time as addressing the urgent needs of schools caused by the pandemic.

We found that the local authority had made strong progress in aspects of its work that caused concern during the core inspection. For example, support for schools including those participating in the Welsh Government’s pilot multi-agency approach has resulted in secondary schools showing sufficient progress to be removed from a statutory category of follow-up. Officers also improved the planning and co-ordination of provision for pupils with special educational needs and those who require extra support.

The local authority implemented an ambitious programme of school organisation proposals based on the Transforming Education Strategy. These proposals have included the opening of a new all-age school, the merger of a number of primary schools and the closure of small rural schools, as well as changes to the language category of schools. Officers and relevant members of the council engaged well with parents, pupils, staff and governors to discuss proposals and allay concerns.

Providers that have made enough progress to be removed from statutory follow-up (schools, pupil referral units and local authorities) or focused improvement (for non-maintained settings) during the academic year 2021-2022

Provider Sector Local authority Level of follow-up Date removed from follow-up Core inspection start date
Ysgol Awel y Mynydd Primary Conwy SM 04/07/2022 09/12/2019
Pentip V.A. C.I.W. Primary School Primary Carmarthenshire SM 04/07/2022 11/03/2019
Ysgol Gymraeg Gilfach Fargoed Primary Caerphilly SI 20/06/2022 21/10/2019
Ysgol Bro Sannan Primary Caerphilly SI 28/03/2022 07/10/2019
Abermorddu C.P. School Primary Flintshire SM 08/02/2022 25/11/2019
Craig-Yr-Hesg Primary School Primary Rhondda Cynon Taf SI 15/11/2021 24/09/2018
Cefn Primary School Primary Rhondda Cynon Taf SI 15/11/2021 24/09/2018
St Alban's R.C. Primary School Primary Cardiff SI 15/11/2021 13/05/2019
Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes Primary Carmarthenshire SI 10/11/2021 16/05/2017
Ogmore Vale Primary Primary Bridgend SM 03/11/2021 02/10/2017
Ysgol Y Castell Primary Carmarthenshire SM 02/11/2021 08/07/2019
Plasnewydd Primary School Primary Bridgend SM 19/10/2021 29/01/2018
Bryn C.P. School Primary Carmarthenshire SM 12/10/2021 19/11/2018
Porth Community School All Age Schools Rhondda Cynon Taf SI 27/06/2022 25/11/2019
Abertillery Learning Community All Age Schools Blaenau Gwent SI 14/02/2022 05/02/2018
Ysgol Ardudwy Secondary Gwynedd SM 14/02/2022 03/12/2018
Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen Secondary Gwynedd SI 31/01/2022 23/09/2019
Ysgol Harri Tudur/Henry Tudor School Secondary Pembrokeshire SI 25/01/2022 19/11/2018
St Julian's School Secondary Newport SM 16/11/2021 02/12/2014
Croesyceiliog School Secondary Torfaen SM 08/11/2021 22/01/2018
Ysgol Bryn Alyn Secondary Wrexham SM 19/10/2021 11/12/2017
Milford Haven School Secondary Pembrokeshire SI 18/10/2021 27/11/2017
Newtown High School Secondary Powys SM 12/10/2021 19/05/2015
Aberdare Community School Secondary Rhondda Cynon Taf SI 12/10/2021 05/03/2018
Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni Secondary Caerphilly SI 22/09/2021 26/04/2016
Bridge Achievement Centre Pupil Referral Unit Newport SM 28/03/2022 12/03/2018
Ty Gwyn Education Centre Pupil Referral Unit Rhondda Cynon Taf SM 02/11/2021 07/10/2019

SM – Special measures
SI – Significant improvement

In addition to these providers that no longer require monitoring, there are a further 16 schools that remain in statutory follow-up resulting from core inspections that took place before the pandemic. Inspectors continue to monitor and report on their progress on a regular basis. Resources that providers and local authorities may find useful:

Post-inspection action plans (

Schools causing concern: Statutory guidance for schools and local authorities

Guidance regarding schools in special measures and the induction period for newly qualified teachers (