Education review could remove school role from councils in Wales

Local councils in Wales could lose responsibility for running schools as part of a wide-ranging review. It follows concern about pupils’ performance and damning reports into some of Wales’ 22 local education authorities (LEAs). This is from the BBC…

Education Minister Leighton Andrews warned the review will not rule anything out.

But local government leaders said they were “vehemently opposed” to cutting councils out of the system.

In a statement to the Welsh assembly, Mr Andrews said: “I have given local authorities time and money to get their house in order, but the evidence is overwhelming that this has not occurred.”

He said the “fragmentation” of education services with the creation of 22 councils in the mid-1990s was a factor behind a downturn in performance by pupils a decade later.

The Welsh government launched a programme of reform in education following disappointing results from an international comparison of school standards in 2009.

LEAs have been grouped into four regional consortia that have been charged with a responsibility to improve schools.

They have been up and running since September, but Mr Andrews told the Senedd chamber that “overall progress is, to put it mildly, patchy”.

Options for the review, which will report by the end of March next year, include:

  • local authorities losing responsibility for school improvement;
  • introducing a regional delivery system for improvements;
  • merging council education departments under the joint management of a number of local authorities;
  • direct funding of schools by ministers, instead of through LEAs;
  • creating schools owned by local co-operatives.

Mr Andrews warned it could go as far as a proposal to remove all education functions from local government and create regional school boards accountable to the Welsh government, possibly without local council representation.

Since introducing a new inspection process in 2010, the schools inspectorate Estyn has not given any authority its top “excellent” rating.

Two of them – Anglesey and Blaenau Gwent – have been put in special measures.

An earlier report in March 2011 said a review should be conducted in autumn 2013 to decide whether structural changes were needed, but Mr Andrews said he was not prepared to wait until then.

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