It is almost six years since our last meeting with the Welsh inspectorate, at which we learned they still took the view expressed in their 2008 report to the Assembly that small schools were as capable as the rest in reaching required standards. We undertook our own sample study of inspections subsequent to that meeting and indeed it showed the quality achieved by the majority of smaller schools. In one case, notably, where inspectors declared the toilets unfit for use by pupils or public the school nevertheless scoffed the top grade on every other aspect of life and learning.
Since then the rumblings of the flawed Reynolds research live on. Gwynneth, and now Powys, have begun closing schools it earlier lost an election for trying to do. The Education Minister tamely accepted every Gwynneth argument and even urged more rationalisation, more urban-based.
Recently he resigned as he had publicly condemned his own Council for proposing to close a school- though careful to claim procedural errors as justification. We wrote to ascertain the extent of his personal support for small schools now but in his reply he said it was not a matter that claimed his priority attention.
We are aware of some recent investigations that raised some questions over Welsh small school performance but from which we dissented and so we decided it might be time to talk to Estyn once more. The meeting will be in November in Cardiff.