Councillor said she would work at Barry school in special measures after recent visit

The front entrance to Pencoedtre High School in Barry
-Credit: (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Attendance at a Barry school that went into special measures is still a concern for inspectors but major improvements have been noted with one councillor saying she would feel confident sending her children there. Feedback from the latest inspection of Pencoedtre High School was presented to Vale of Glamorgan Council's learning and culture scrutiny committee on Thursday, June 27.

Despite the lingering issue of attendance Central South Consortium principal improvement partner for Vale of Glamorgan schools, Carys Pritchard, said the "clear vision" of the school's new executive head teacher, Innes Robinson, had been embraced by staff. One member of the council's learning and culture scrutiny committee, Cllr Naomi Marshallsea, was glowing in her assessment of the school's progress since being placed in special measures by Estyn in 2022.

Referring to a visit she and fellow councillors made to the school recently Cllr Marshallsea said: "Some of us were probably a little bit apprehensive about what we would see and from the moment of arrival I was instantly relaxed and confident in the visit. Innes clearly has a really structured and well-thought-through plan of how to change that school and how to turn it around and you can instantly see how that is happening." For more news, sign up to our newsletter here.

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"The fact that he now has 12 new teachers starting in September will also really support him in that." Mr Robinson, who is also the head teacher at Whitmore High School in Barry, was announced as the new executive head teacher at Pencoedtre in January 2023.

This was not long after teachers at the school went on strike over the poor behaviour of some pupils. Teachers were reportedly resorting to locking the doors of their classrooms to keep them and pupils safe and union representative said members of staff felt "at the end of their tether".

Cllr Marshallsea added: "On leaving I had two questions in my mind. One: as a teacher would I want to work there? Two: would I want to send my children there?

"I can see that the vision [Mr Robinson] has for the school and actually working across both schools to make sure the standards will be on a similar level I felt very confident that yes I would definitely work there and I would feel confident sending my children there." Progress at Pencoedtre High School is monitored on a half-termly basis by Vale of Glamorgan Council and and Central South Consortium and Estyn visits the school on a termly basis.

The current executive head teacher of Pencoedtre High School in Barry, Innes Robinson
The current executive head teacher of Pencoedtre High School in Barry, Innes Robinson -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne

The council report presented to members of the learning and culture scrutiny committee was on Estyn's feedback after a visit in March 2024. Ms Pritchard said: "Estyn felt that there is a more strategic approach developing in relation to attendance.

"They noted the policies that have been implemented, also the role of engagement officers and pastoral support assistants to support key members of staff there, but there was a recognition... that attendance remains a significant concern for the school, particularly persistent attendance and the attendance of pupils eligible for free school meals. There is now a more unified and consistent approach to dealing with behaviour and that is beginning to impact on reducing internal truancy and improving pupils' behaviour."

One of the key issues raised by Pencoedtre High staff earlier this year was the design of the £33m school building, pointing to its open-plan design and the central location of the successful futures centre (SFC) hub which they said contributes to poor behaviour. When interviewed in January Mr Robinson described the modern building as "superb" and said having a staff room wouldn't change the culture of the school.

At the time he added: "What changes the culture is feeling valued and feeling that when you are successful that you are recognised by the senior leadership team."