Monday, 20 May 2013

So what about Blaenau Gwent Leighton?

News from the Mule that "Plaid Cymru has called on education minister Leighton Andrews to “front up” and take responsibility for the failure of council school services" reflects  what I commented on yesterday that "Wales need the News to cover Leighton Andrews not Michael Gove".

This news  follows the publication of a damning report into standards at Blaenau Gwent council, which remains “unsatisfactory” despite 18 months of external support and monitoring.

Education watchdog Estyn said officers and school leaders had not been held to account effectively and a “lack of competence” at all levels hampers progress.

Blaenau Gwent is one of six councils in Wales to have required “special measures” and a wide-ranging review of education delivery has considered removing school services from local government control.

Plaid Cymru’s education spokesman Simon Thomas said the “catastrophic failure” to raise standards in Blaenau Gwent called for urgent action.

He called on Mr Andrews to tell parents and teachers how he proposes to turn the situation around.

Mr Thomas said:
 “The failure of the education minister to get to grips with our education system is a cause for national concern. The catastrophic failure to raise standards in Blaenau Gwent proves that major changes need to be made.
“The minister is adept at ordering numerous reviews, but what we need now is real action. He needs to tell us what exactly he is going to do to turn education services around. He needs to tell worried parents and teachers how he intends to raise standards.
“The minister has told us that he intends to set up new regional bodies, and this needs to happen sooner rather than later. We need to see the minister actually taking responsibility for what has gone wrong in our education system.”
Mr Thomas said Welsh Labour had been in charge of education in Wales since devolution – and the minister could no longer point the finger of blame.
“The failures in Blaenau Gwent happened on his watch, and under his control. He now needs to front up and tell us how he will right this failure,” 
“The fact that educational standards have declined in Blaenau Gwent since the minister intervened shows that for all his bluster he still hasn’t got a grip on the system.”
Western Mail 20 May 2013 

We must be fair to Labour controlled Balenau Gwent  they  have only been back in control of the council after  four years pg Independent/People's Voice/Liberal Democrat Coalition  and that is hardly time to see results of any changes they have made.

Having said that the decline there has come after many years under their watch.

1991 - Labour hold
1995 - Labour hold
1999 - Labour hold
2004 - Labour hold
2008 - Independent/People's Voice/Liberal Democrat Coalition
2012 - Labour  from Independent Coalition

It must be said  however that it does look like Leighton Andrews may be reluctant to take action on a Labour Council which will probably remain in power for decades .

Former headteacher  Bethan  Guilfoyle ,was drafted into the authority in 2011 alongside a broader Welsh Government taskforce that has since been scaled back.

Was this because improvements were appearing or that it would be embarrassing for commissioners  to be sent in to a Labour controlled authority by a Welsh Labour Government.

Mr Andrews has taken steps to merge the education departments of  Rhondda Cynon Taf council with tho now Labour controlled ailing Merthyr Tydfil, however the latter could well slip back to control.of other parties and Independents.

What we need is a thorough investigation into how education practises are conducted by councils  throughout Wales but any investigation must take into account social deprivation and parental involvement  in the education of their system.

A school may have the best teachers but if the children's parents had a negative education  experience they are often likely not to take an interest and contribute to their children interest.

Perhaps we should look beyond  the schools to the wider environmental. 

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