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Schools shake-up debate

Education Minister Leighton Andrews says local councils in Wales could lose responsibility for the running of schools.

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Review could abolish Local Education Authorities

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced the most radical shake-up in the way schools are run in 110 years. A review of the delivery of education services will look at what should be undertaken at school, local authority, regional and national level. It will look at a range of options:

  • A regional system, with the review setting the regional boundaries.
  • Moving school improvement from local authorities to a Welsh Government regional service.
  • Merging council education services, with counties providing joint management.
  • Removing all education functions from local government

They have rarely used their powers of intervention to address failure when it arises in schools. I and the Minister for Local Government have repeatedly called upon local authorities to make joint appointments when vacancies arise. In respect of posts for Directors of Education and Chief Education Officers, this has largely fallen on deaf ears.

I have said repeatedly I would not have invented 22 local education authorities. I have also said that 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. I have given local authorities time and money to get their house in order but the evidence is overwhelming that this has not occurred.

– Education Minister Leighton Andrews AM

LEAs were first created in 1902. They were reduced to just eight in 1974 but increased to 22 in 1996. The review will report by next March. Mr Andrews said 15 reports from the schools inspectorate, Estyn, on the performance of individual local authorities had demonstrated the need to take action.

  • Anglesey – in special measures, with an intervention board appointed.
  • Blaenau Gwent – in special measures, run by commissioners.
  • Pembrokeshire – in need of significant improvement under direction of a Ministerial Board.
  • Wrexham, Cardiff, Flint, RCT and Caerphilly - adequate

Mr Andrews said 'adequate' meant barely good enough. Two authorities -Torfaen and Powys- had shown significant improvement and five -Newport, Conwy, Denbigh, Carmarthen and Neath Port Talbot- were 'good'. None were 'excellent', though not all councils' reports have been published yet.

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