Local authorities warned that change is coming


Change is now inevitable, Wales’s education minister has ruled after a damning report has found that the first local education authority to be put in special measures is still judged as failing.

Education watchdog Estyn says standards at Blaenau Gwent council remain “unsatisfactory” two years after first requiring special measures.

An overhaul of the delivery of schools services across Wales now seems certain with more than a quarter of Welsh councils in a formal category. 

Five of the 22 local education authorities in Wales have been placed in special measures and a further two deemed in need of significant improvement since Estyn launched its new inspection framework in 2010.

Blaenau Gwent was placed in special measures in May 2011 and was re-inspected earlier this year. But Estyn found little improvement, stating its “lack of capacity and competence” at all levels hampers progress.

Estyn said education commissioners, appointed by the Welsh government to work alongside Blaenau Gwent officials, had helped facilitate “recent progress”, but that leaders have still not established “a sustainable pathway of change and improvement”.

Education minister Leighton Andrews said Blaenau Gwent “remains a problem authority” and warned Estyn’s report “sends a very clear signal that change will have to happen”.

It comes as the Welsh government prepares its response to a wide-ranging review of education delivery which could see councils stripped of their responsibility for schools.

The minister has already taken steps to merge Rhondda Cynon Taf with ailing Merthyr Tydfil and he did not rule out making similar arrangements in South East Wales.

Mr Andrews, who has made no secret of his desire to see fewer local education authorities, said he expects to announce plans for future education delivery before the summer recess.

He would not be drawn on his preferred outcome, but hinted: “I think it will support our general direction of travel.”

James Harris, education chief for both Blaenau Gwent and Newport councils, said stakeholders recognised the need for “urgent and significant improvement”.

He added: “The challenge is significant but there are clear signs that progress is being made and improving educational performance remains as a top priority for the council.”


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