Delight all-round as dramatic school improvement praised by inspectors

Riverbank Special School in Caerau is celebrating after being removed from monitoring by Estyn, the education inspectorate for Wales. 


Estyn's decision comes after a concerted effort to make significant improvements over the past two years. 

Since the inspectorate took the decision to put Riverbank into monitoring in November 2015, Cardiff Council has worked with the school to strengthen governance and to facilitate partnership working with neighbouring special schools, Woodlands and Tŷ Gwyn. 

Welcoming the Estyn decision, Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, Cllr Sarah Merry, said: "I want to congratulate everyone at Riverbank Special School on this excellent news. I am delighted that Estyn has recognised the enormous amount of work undertaken by the school, with the support of the local authority, to drive up standards. 

"It is particularly pleasing to see that the inspectorate has recognised the positive impact of the joint working introduced between the three schools, and I am confident that these links will continue to deliver an excellent standard of education for all the children, not only at Riverbank, but also at Woodlands and Tŷ Gwyn." 

The success of the joint working lead to the schools drawing up plans earlier this year to create formal ties. This has resulted in the decision being taken for all three to federate as the Western Learning Campus from January 8, 2018. 

Acting Headteacher of Riverbank Special School, Mrs Deborah Herald, said: "I am delighted that the hard work and dedication of the Riverbank staff has been recognised in this way. The school has gone on a tremendous journey since the original inspection in 2015, and we have done it together as a whole school. 

"Our common goal of wanting each and every child to achieve their potential has bonded us as a team and driven us to get better. We have taken advice, and worked with others, and are grateful for the support shown by those individuals, as well as the local authority and the Central South Consortium. 

"It is with heads held high that we now move into the next exciting phase of our development as we join the Western Learning Campus federation. As a school, we will continue to grow and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of each and every one of our pupils." 

As well recognising that the joint working has improved the confidence of staff to make accurate assessment judgements, Estyn also found that strong progress had been made against other recommendations it made. 

Inspectors reported that pupils across the school use ICT well and with growing confidence, and that they present their work proudly in portfolios and displays around the school. 

In terms of strengthening safeguarding, Estyn noted that important changes had been made, including the use of Cardiff Council's safeguarding audit tool. The inspectorate also made not of the fact that Mrs Herald now represents special schools at the local safeguarding group. 

The governing body's role as a critical friend is developing well, and follows significant changes to the membership, including the recent appointment of Bianca Rees as the new chair. 

Estyn also found that very good progress has been made towards ensuring policies and statutory guidance are reviewed regularly and kept up-to-date. These changes are beginning to have a positive impact on practice, including the school's approach to managing pupils' behaviour.