The former Welsh Secretary Redwood says the system of 22 Welsh local councils, each with its own education authority, was created in response to calls from Welsh MPs and local councils, who were mostly Labour. Mr Redwood was responding to a speech by the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews.
I would not have invented 22 local education authorities for a nation of 3 million people. No-one sensible would. John Redwood did.
– Education Minister Leighton Andrews AM
I was asked to create the new councils and Welsh local government wanted more, not fewer of them. The only serious criticism was over Powys.
– Former Welsh Secretary John Redwood MP
Mr Redwood says he was told that smaller councils would co-operate and not run everything themselves when they took over in 1996. He had inherited from his predecessor, David Hunt, plans to scrap the existing eight counties (which were local education authorities) and 37 districts
Mr Redwood spit up Mr Hunt's Heads of the Valleys authority and created the two county boroughs with the smallest populations, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent. But he refused to divide Powys into three smaller authorities, although Labour and the local Tory MP both backed the idea.
The Education Minister is giving the strongest signal yet that radical change lies ahead in the way schools are run. In a speech tonight, Leighton Andrews is expected to described the system of 22 Local Education Authorities as 'a historical mistake made by a Conservative government.'
He's commissioned a review which is looking at several options. But these comments suggest that the Welsh Government is already considering making radical changes. He's expected to say that:
Devolution has given us stronger accountability in Wales. We now need to ask whether all of the pre-devolution structures that we inherited remain fit for purpose. I would not have invented 22 local education authorities for a nation of 3 million people. No-one sensible would. John Redwood did.
The fragmentation of education authorities in the mid-1990s was one of the contributing factors for the downturn in educational performance a decade later, as effective challenge and support was lost in many parts of the system and time, energy and resource was dissipated.
The truth is that the Tory-imposed structure of 22 local education authorities is failing our children and it is not fit for purpose.