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Education Minister scoops Politician of the Year award

Leighton Andrews was named Politician of the Year in a ceremony in Cardiff last night. It's the second year running the Education Minister has scooped the honour.

The former Welsh Secretary Lord Crickhowell was awarded the lifetime achievement award for his 8 year in the post.

You can see the awards ceremony in a special programme on ITV Wales tomorrow night at 10.35pm

New qualifications body for Wales

A new qualifications body has been announced by the Education and Skills Minister Leighton Andrews.

The new body, called Qualifications Wales, will be responsible for awarding qualifications and regulating and assuring the quality of all non degree level qualifications.

The decision to create the body follows publication of the report from the Board of the Review of Qualifications for 14-19 year olds, which was published last week.

The Review recommended that the regulation of qualifications in Wales should be strengthened and separated from government.

We are clear as a Government that this is the right way forward for us.

We will now study and learn from the model that has been in operation in Scotland for some years, and works well there.

Considerable thought will be given to the governance, remit, structure and operation of Qualifications Wales.

The group will advise on issues relating to timing, governance, structures and due diligence.

I expect to see a detailed proposal and a business case from my officials in the first half of 2013.”

– Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

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Education Minister: Fine the parents of regular truants

A fine of up to £60 could be imposed on the parents of children who regularly miss school.

The Education Minister Leighton Andrews wants to introduce fixed penalties because although the truancy rate is going down in Wales, he says it's still a cause for concern.

Councils would have the power to enforce the fine, which would rise to £120 if not paid within the month.

Persistent absenteeism can have a detrimental effect on a child’s education. Research has shown that a pupil who misses 17 days of school, authorised or unauthorised, can drop a GCSE grade across all subjects.

To put it simply, when a child is not in school, that child is not learning.

– Leighton Andrews AM, Education Minister

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Councils 'vehemently opposed' to schools shake-up

The Welsh Local Government Association says councils should not lose control of schools. The WLGA has responded to the review announced by the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, saying that although there are major issues, LEAs are functioning 'to an optimum level' to serve pupils' interests.

The WLGA is vehemently opposed to any proposal that suggests education should be taken out of local authority control. This will fundamentally damage the principle of local democratic control and accountability, and undermine the ability of local communities to shape the educational future of young people.

The WLGA is already working closely and positively with the Education Minister, who has met the 22 leaders on numerous occasions and only last week addressed the 22 Cabinet Members for Education across Wales. The Association has fully agreed with the major elements of the Ministers 20 action points and has indeed met many of its obligations including the delegation of 80% funding to schools, the banding of schools and the establishment of four School Improvement Consortia.

– Cllr Bob Wellington, Welsh Local Government Association

Full consultation on schools needed say Plaid

Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas has claimed that the review of how schools are run is an admission of the failure of consecutive Labour ministers to ensure high standards. He added that it is wrong only to blame the local education authorities.

It is widely agreed that educational standards across Wales need to be improved and I am glad that the Minister has opened this debate. The announcement is an admission that Labour has let down children and young people over the years and it is to be welcomed that the Minister is now taking steps to address this. However, I have warned the Minister that holding a consultation after an internal review group has met is too late. To have a fully open discussion we need a full consultation up-front.

My biggest concern with this announcement is that the Welsh Government could be using education as a wedge to drive through local government reform. Education cannot be used as an experiment on how reform can be delivered, and in this respect I think that is approach is not the best one. A Party of Wales Government is committed to improving the standard of education throughout Wales but the approach needs to be a balance between leadership from the Welsh Government and local accountability.

– Plaid Cymru Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas AM

Minister's admission of failure say Tories

Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns AM has claimed that Leighton Andrews' announcement is 'an astonishing admission of failure'. She accused the Education Minister of a blame game, that he was saying poor standards in schools were the fault of everyone but the Welsh Government.

Labour Education Ministers have been running the Welsh education system for 15 years and must take responsibility for declining standards. Welsh Conservatives have lobbied for years for direct funding of schools to eliminate waste and deliver more cash to schools. While we welcome the Minister’s consideration of direct funding, his other plans suggest creeping centralisation of power in his hands at the expense of schools and local authorities.

Given how poor Labour’s policies and performance have been to date, we must question whether further centralisation really is the best way forward. Instead of blaming others and threatening to emasculate local authorities and centralise control, the Minister should co-operate constructively with councils and schools to share best practice and promote collaboration.

We have massive problems of underperformance in our education system, but we need a level-headed evidence-based approach to driving up standards not a bull in a china shop.

– Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns AM
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