Council budgets to be cut to fund school improvement in Wales
5:18pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
COUNCILS are to have their funding cut so the Welsh Government can directly fund bodies set up to improve schools in Wales.
But Huw Lewis on Tuesday put off his response to the majority of the recommendations made by the Robert Hill education review, including proposals to slash the number of education authorities from 22 to 15.
The minister yesterday agreed with Hill’s call for councils to stop providing school improvement services, and for regional consortiums set up to provide those services by local authorities to be funded directly by "top-slicing" Welsh Government grants for councils.
He told the Senedd: “Evidence from Hill, Estyn and an independent consultancy report of consortia readiness for regional working confirms that each consortium is at a different stage of its development, pace in some areas has been slow, and there is a lack of consistency and some duplication in the services being delivered across Wales.
“I am simply not prepared to wait any longer for local government to get their act together. Decisive action needs to be taken now in order to support our schools and young people."
But Mr Lewis refused to give a date as to when he would report back about the rest of the Hill review’s conclusions, saying he would have “a rapid a pace of progress as is humanly possible”.
Top-slicing funding would be dependent on all consortia’s functions being standardised and for the consortia’s structures to be approved by ministers.
They would also need to be governed by an appointee from the Welsh Government as well as council leaders, three school heads and an education improvement expert.
Already in Gwent councils have handed over school improvement services to the Education Achievement Service for South East Wales – but it is currently funded by the local authorities rather than the Welsh Government directly.
The decision comes after six Welsh education authorities including Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire and Torfaen were put in special measures after inspections by Estyn.
Tory shadow minister for Education Angela Burns AM said: “After ten years of declining standards in a Labour-run education system, it is improvement that is urgently needed – not drip-feeding. A full response to the Hill review is still forthcoming and the future of our schools remains in limbo.”
A spokesman for Monmouthshire council said: “We can't comment until we have seen the detailed proposals. But clearly as a co-founder of the Gwent wide Education Attainment Service we agree with the model for regionally based school improvement services.
“We do believe that it is of paramount importance to ensure that these services' primary function is to meet local need.”