Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Special Measures

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  • #144866

    Council Watcher
    Participant

    What on earth is going on with the education services for our younger people in Wrexham – yet another secondary school goes into Special Measures.

    We have had over 40% of our Wrexham Secondary School young people over the past 5 years being ‘taught’ in an education establishment that has been rated as Special Measures — Rhosnessni, Grango, Clywedog, Ruabon and Darland just below Special Measures.

    This is an appaling situation that our young people are having such a poor start in life.

    There are clearly a large variety of reasons why the schools are failing – pupils, teachers, management, facilities, resources- but I’m sure that none of the staff gets up in the morning and thinks “I’m going to do a bad job today”.

    This new Special Measure shows a systematic failure in the support for schools both from within the Council (they have the Lead Member role) and GWE the North Wales School improvement service. Failures of this scale do not come overnight it comes from consistent downward decline with GWE and the Lead Member – Cllr Phil Wynn being (or should be) fully aware of the issues.

    Our secondary school track record is now lower than many inner-city schools that only a few years ago had huge issues of ‘feral’ young people, knife crime, drugs in school etc. Look at them now 90% + in many of them for A-C at GCSE.

    Let’s hope that parents and pupils can get their voice heard in trying to make a difference with the ‘professionals’ but it seems such a pity that those preparing for GCSE exams after Easter will have no chance to turn things around- yet another cohort of failed Young People. Totally disgraceful and some people at all levels really need to consider if their position is tenable.

    #144867

    Huw
    Participant

    Bryn Alyn was an awful, hateful school when I attended there in the 90’s. Looks like nothing has changed.

    #144870

    Matt
    Participant

    Sadly the dire schools situation in Wrexham has been going on years.

    You only need to look at the super schools debacle – closing one of the main central Wrexham secondary schools & expecting to cope with 2 & trying to claim increased investment and excellence was going to happening within them, which they didn’t. So we had 3 relatively well functioning schools and ended up with 2 at breaking point. Of course now after all these years there’s still arguments over the disposal/bringing back into re-use of the Groves site – a side issue of course.

    Anyway what you have is 3 critical failure points in Wrexham schools:

    1) Underfunded – on average per pupil there is far less money available than say across the border in Cheshire and Shropshire.

    2) Talent drain – as a direct result of there being less money, top teachers are being poached across the border to teach in England under better pay with better teaching resources. Why wouldn’t you? Also means headteachers get paid significantly more across the border – so like with Wrexham council can’t best the best leadership people in. I’ve been aware of this happening within my former school of St David’s where I became very aware that a large number of teachers jumped ship before the schools merged into Rhosnesni & got plum positions elsewhere. Even the best trainee teachers don’t want to train in Wrexham – I have known quite a few people who decided to train up down Oswestry way & then looked for a teaching job down there.

    3) Large % of kids classed as underprivileged- now I don’t like sticking labels on the level of wealth a child’s family background involves and their academic ability, but obviously there is a huge correlation between underachievement and coming from a less well off background. This issue has been tackled head on in England’s inner cities with (contraversial) Academy schools and them effectively getting the top people and task forces to turn situations around in terms of improving fortunes of inner city children. Unfortunately we’ve had no such incentives in Wrexham and the situation has just been allowed to snowball. You combine that with increasing class sizes (build more schools please), teachers who are probably underpaid vs their peers in England and voila you’ve got the special measures picture we are seeing today. Oh yes, when the schools get dealt with during special measures they only get forced to improve to a standard that is considered borderline acceptable rather than an attempt to massively improve things. So further down the line, these schools have a high chance of red flagging again at the next inspection.

    The WAG need to give us some serious investment to turn the education situation round in North Wales.

    #144901

    Liz Jackson
    Participant

    In any educational environment, there need to be a partnership between pupil, staff, school management, Council, and parents- if any one of these interdependent relationships breaks down then the result will inevitably be poor quality provision and poor results for children.

    In this instance it appears that more than one break down has occurred – it is easy to blame the environment yet if you look at inner city schools with children living in poor quality housing often in classes with a very high range of languages and culture they are still able to thrive. The work ethic for families is such that the children are actively encouraged to do better than their parents. The myth of immigrants always scrounging and being in benefits in many areas is very far from the truth.

    Many good teachers will inevitably leave from failing schools leaving those less experienced or those heading for retirement. I know this is a generalization but in situations like a failing school, there is a need for teachers to excel in their subject but also have the added skills to deal with the school set up. A good teacher in a good school does not necessarily make a good teacher in a failing school.

    Let’s hope the ‘powers that be’ pull their finger out and offer the right level of support and bring in the right type of teachers and managers to make a difference so that the Year 7 pupils that joined last September will be able to achieve when they get to GCSE in Year 11.

    #144906

    Matt
    Participant

    Liz, the problem still lies with school budgets. Wrexham Council is proposing underfunding in real terms & I read an article that says they also have a similar situation in Flintshire. You can’t attract the top talent ‘troubled schools’ specialist teachers & managers who just aren’t going to come to Wrexham as we can’t afford the salary they can demand in England where academies etc… have more funding. Hence as I said before they have had success turning round some of the worst schools in the likes of Manchester where they have had gang violence & drug & weapons problems in the past that faced all ethnicities as they had the talent and the money and resources to deal with it head on. You only need to look at the top quality sports facilities on offer to English city school kids that even if they are not academically inclined they can develop some kind of sporting talent.

    Just what have youngsters got to look forward to in this town in general? Most of the sporting and leisure infrastucture is tired & neglected. The council have no real interest in youth recreation & services. It took the community to rescue Plas Madoc & put in provisions to renovate it. There’s hardly any youth clubs & public locations where you could put on activities are being sold off/demolished by the council, like our community centres.

    There’s countless playgrounds and MUGAs around the county that have been vandalised or are unsafe and outdated. Then you have to deal with smashed glass and litter everywhere on them as the council’s idea of litter action is fining people for dropping cigarette butts in town using rentamob Kingdom, rather than putting boots on the ground and cleaning up our parks and public spaces.

    Want your child to learn to play a musical instrument – but can’t afford the cost of an expensive instrument? A longtime proud town tradition, Fugheddabout it…cutting the money for that too.

    So yes to top it all off our kids then have to attend sub-standard schools at risk of special measures or in special measures unless they go into the Welsh medium route or the religious route.

    Most of us here will feel an air of disbelief at the shocking state of affairs that the young experience in Wrexham present. Anyone who finished school 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago will remember a very different picture of going through education and also the overall quality and quantity of things to do around the town and county. I was really proud of growing up in Wrexham, but now am a bit saddened at the current state of affairs. I wish there was something collectively we could do as a town to improve things.

    #144907
    Alunh
    Alunh
    Participant

    It’s very easy to focus on a particular school when negative things occur in Education, and sometimes the focus will be justified. I am not going to offer any comment on Bryn Alyn.

    Education in Wrexham was shaped until the 1970s by the Butler Education Act of 1944. This created a 3 tier system of post-11 Education and by the 1960s Wrexham’s youngsters were taught in a range of schools and institutions that supposedly matched their abilities or needs. As now, within the town itself there was Morgan Llwyd and St Josephs, a Boy’s Grammar (Grove Park), a Girl’s Grammar (Grove Park), a Grammar Tech (Yale), two Secondary Moderns (Bryn Offa and St David’s), and a Technical College. Whatever the philosophical rights and wrongs of each and any of these, that offered 8 different Institutions providing some sort of contrasting Education for youngsters. This system was abandoned in the 1970s for understandable reasons. Unfortunately the successor system was flawed.

    Within England, by the time of the Blair Governments, there was a recognition that bog-standard, one size fits all Comprehensives were not adequate in meeting the needs of the youngsters attending them and addressing their multi-varied needs. A lot of soul-searching then went on to find a system that gave all youngsters the opportunity to fulfill their potential. This is still going on. What is clear in Wales and Wrexham is that this process has not been undertaken and it needs to happen. Otherwise, we will be playing Pass the Special measures Parcel forever and a day

    #144908
    Alunh
    Alunh
    Participant

    Good post Matt

    #144910

    Liz Jackson
    Participant

    If it is about budget how does Maelor School in Penley consistently hit high targets surely they get the same level of funding per head as the other schools in Wrexham- what are they doing that can be bottled and delivered to the other schools.

    #144914

    Matt
    Participant

    If it is about budget how does Maelor School in Penley consistently hit high targets surely they get the same level of funding per head as the other schools in Wrexham- what are they doing that can be bottled and delivered to the other schools.

    1 simple statistical fact – Maelor School free dinners children – 4.6%. Bryn Alyn – 19.9%, Clywedog – 19.4%, Rhosnesni – 25.1%.

    Welsh Government uses free school meals as a key indicator of underprivileged children.

    The Welsh national average is 17.8% of children on free meals per school, so the struggling schools are all above and The Maelor is way below – it has a fantastically low level – signifying a wide level of affluence in that rural corner of the county.

    The Welsh Government states in this report:

    http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/academic-achievement-free-school-meals/?lang=en

    “There is a strong link between achievement and the level of entitlement to free school meals in secondary schools: as the level of FSM entitlement increases, the level of achievement decreases.”

    “In 2017 the difference in performance between pupils eligible for free school meals and those who are not is 14.3 percentage points.”

    That is an absolutely astonishing performance gap & absolutely nothing is being done about it at all in the majority of Wrexham schools. We are talking about a large number of poorer students actually seeing a real class system imposed on them just from the backgrounds they were born into. Free dinners = expected low academic achievement = expected low earning or benefits reliant when of working age and then their own kids falling into the same fate creating generations of deprivation.

    The absolute joke is that the Maelor is running on a budget of £4,554 per pupil, lower than any other school in Wrexham

    http://mylocalschool.gov.wales/School/6655401?lang=en

    and Rhosnesni gets £5,547 per pupil! – An extra grand more per child than the Maelor & it’s still suffering from severe failure.

    http://mylocalschool.wales.gov.uk/School/6654048?lang=en

    The other schools are floating a few hundred quid per pupil above the Maelor.

    But it just goes to show bad the impact is on school ratings and pupil performance that even the existing additional funding in place isn’t making a dent.

    Versus inner-city schools in England we still have to consider the likes of Rhosnesni underfunded and totally without the ability to pay for turnaround specialist teachers and management or support staff dedicated to social inclusion. Who’d want to work in bad schools with all the added stress and pressures from kids, headteachers, inspectors, school governors, parents all screaming at them to magically make the kids do better in their exams?

    Teachers would much rather work in the actual rewarding learning environment of somewhere like the Maelor or across the border.

    We need millions invested into the local Wrexham’s failing education system.

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by  Matt.
    #144917

    Council Watcher
    Participant

    I follow your thinking but part of the issue with Secondary Schools is also the standard of education that pupils get when in Primary School.
    Using the Free School Meals data as an indicator makes it very strange that Acton Primary has just been rated in the Red category has relatively low FSM children but many of these children will feed into those Secondary schools that are or have been in Special Measures. Contrary to Acton is Rhosymedre that is based on the Plas Madoc estate – one of the top 10 deprived areas in Wales has just had a Green rating and only a couple of months ago an excellent Estyn Inspection.

    I wonder what would happen if the school management and Governors from Acton did a swap with Rhosymedre?

    This indicates that the issue is not at Secondary School when often the children are being let down far earlier in their education in Primary Schools.

    There clearly is not one single solution that fits all schools but failing schools need to look at those with similar pupil demographic and learn from other peoples success.

    If GWE is supposed to be the support service – do they have expert staff who understand the issues and change management skills or are the staff who have left the classroom/school environment for a variety of personal reasons!

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