Education minister Leighton Andrews took the unprecedented action to remove responsibility for education from Merthyr Council following a damning report from inspectorate Estyn.
He said he had no confidence in Merthyr Council to resolve the problems itself. A number of options, including creating a merged education service with a neighbouring authority, are being considered.
A second failing council, Monmouthshire, has been given some extra time to improve but the minister wants an independent recovery board to monitor progress.
While the NASUWT branded the minister’s response to Merthyr “knee-jerk”, Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, backed the minister’s intervention.
Mr Andrews has called for improvements from all councils in the wake of new figures which reveal that of 18 local authorities inspected, five were good, six adequate, two in need of significant improvement and five require special measures.
He described the picture as “bleak”, adding: “This situation is unacceptable, and I expect to see action from all in local government.”
Chief inspector Ann Keane outlined the depth of the task ahead for education chiefs when giving evidence to a committee of Assembly members.
She revealed that the number of schools requiring closer monitoring and follow-up visits during the current inspection cycle was higher than expected.
However there was some positive news. Ms Keane told the Assembly’s Children and Young People Committee that the inspectorate’s decision to bring inspections “in-house” and phase-out the use of external contractors had paid dividends.
Previously the contractors would walk away at the end of the inspection and there would be no follow-up for six years, she said, but with Estyn now having responsibility for all their reports this did not happen.
Summing up, Ms Keane added: “We have been pleasantly surprised in returning to some schools – we thought maybe there would be some schools that would slide backwards and we would have to place them in certain categories, but what we have found is that they have strived and have actually endeavoured to improve.”