POLITICIANS and union leaders welcomed Huw Lewis’ appointment as new education minister for the Welsh Assembly with tentative hope.

Leighton Andrews resigned on Tuesday after his support for Pentre Primary School, in his Rhondda constituency, was seen to contradict his own policies.

Huw Lewis, AM for Merthyr Tydfil, a former teacher, was named as his replacement on Wednesday.

Hedley McCarthy, leader of Blaenau Gwent council, said: “I’d like to congratulate him and wish him all the best. Education improvement is obviously a priority for Blaenau Gwent, so I look forward to having a good working relationship with him.”

Three education authories in Gwent – Monmouthshire, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent – have been placed in ‘special measures’ after poor Estyn results, meaning their schools urgently need to improve.

Jocelyn Davies AM for South East Wales, said: “Literacy and numeracy levels are unacceptably lowand I strongly urge the new minister to give priority to these basic skills. Ultimately, it is on this challenge that the Minister will be judged.”

William Graham, AM for South East Wales, said: “Statistics for literacy are in my view alarming. (Huw Lewis) has a very important portfolio and if his last appearance before committee is anything to go by then education is in for a rough ride.

“I didn’t agree with the policies that (Leighton Andrews) brought in but he was certainly a capable minister.

He did get things done.”

Dr. Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said: “With PISA looming, the results of the A levels and GCSEs just weeks away, and the new literacy and numeracy frameworks starting to bed in, we will need a minister who is prepared to listen but also prepared to make tough decisions. It is good to know that Mr Lewis intends to continue the focus on educational standards.”

Peter Fox, Monmouthshire County Council’s leader, said: “Education is one of Monmouthshire’s core priorities and I’m looking forward to working with him at this important time for education not only in Monmouthshire, butWales as a whole.

“We’re continuing to work hard not only to make the improvements that Estyn has asked of us, but to continue our innovative and successful 21st Century Schools programme.”

Rex Phillips, NASUWT Wales Organiser, said: “In congratulating the new minister on his appointment, we hope that as an ex-teacher he will recognise that the culture and environment in which teachers’ work impacts on the children and young people they teach.

“The celebration of their success and the acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication of teachers and the wider school workforce should, therefore, be a starting point for the new minister.”