Thursday, 20 June 2013

Major Education changes on the way?

It sometimes seems that in Health and Education Ministers are more intent on being seen be doing something rather than doing what is right.

Still the news that Councils in Wales could be stripped of their responsibility for school improvement under a raft of new proposals put before the Welsh Government.may be one that will work

According to Wales Online :

A major review into education delivery has suggested transferring some statutory local authority education functions to Wales’ four regional consortia.

If approved, the move would effectively cut out the layer of accountability provided by local authority education services and make consortiums directly answerable to elected members on matters of school improvement.

A report put forward by former UK Government adviser Robert Hill also suggests reducing the number of local education authorities (LEAs) in Wales by a third by April 2014.

One of several “key short-term options”, it builds on Education Minister Leighton Andrews’ plans to merge struggling Merthyr Tydfil with nearby Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Writing in his report, Mr Hill said current arrangements in Wales are “profoundly unsatisfactory” and fall short of good practise.

“The good news is that I found a widespread recognition among just about everyone I met that things cannot continue as they are,” he said.

Mr Hill said he had visited 20 primary, secondary and special schools across Wales to hear at first hand of the progress being made.

He added:

This is a key moment in the improvement journey for schools in Wales. There are some parts of the system that are demonstrating outstanding practise and others where performance is poor. Overall, the system might be said to be fair.“Many participants recognise the need for change and want to be in the vanguard of improving outcomes and life chances for young people in Wales. They want to see the pathway for taking Welsh schools to a level where they are acclaimed as forming a great system.”

There then unfortunately follows a load of waffle where  Hill says things like :
“Many participants recognise the need for change and want to be in the vanguard of improving outcomes and life chances for young people in Wales. They want to see the pathway for taking Welsh schools to a level where they are acclaimed as forming a great system.”

“teachers should be seen as leaders from the start of their career” and leadership development boards should be developed at both national and regional level to lead a “step-change” in capacity to run schools.

Why could n't he simply say  that " the present system is not working and we think we need to create a new structure to see that it does"

Earlier this month, Torfaen Council may have given us an example of the T, put forward plans to relinquish some of its statutory education functions.

The proposals would see the South-East Wales education consortium – consisting of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen – assuming responsibility for the council’s school improvement.

Despite my misgivings over the idea that "We must be seeing to do something".  This may have merit but why stop there?.

Why not include health, policing and the fire departments in the consortia  this plan   to create a Tier of  four elected super councils of about 20 members to oversee this ?

Creating a super education body which are unaccountable to the electorate  is not the answer but a new authority concentrating on the three areas of Health,Education and Policing may be.


Cibwr said...

We are effectively seeing reorganisation of local government by stealth - more joint boards and quangos - my preference - as you know - is for 5 regions - and yes police, fire, education, waste disposal, transport, health & social services and economic planning combined into one regional authority. But make it democratic, no more patronage appointments, no more unaccountable boards!

Anonymous said...

One police force for Wales will training college outside Glamorgan/Gwent.

8 or 9 counties along like of what we had from 1974 - 1992.

Or, if regions, then one where Welsh is still significant in numbers - Gwynedd + Dyfed (without South Pembs).

glynbeddau said...

I not sure I would like to see all the services you mentioned but we are largely in agreement . What worries me is that this may be a case of a power grab by Assembly Ministers. Devolution should subsidiarity .The principle that things that should be handled by the most local level of administration possible; central high-level government should only be involved in handling things that cannot be dealt with effectively .

Cibwr said...

Local government reorganisation is badly botched - it is instructive to read the various reports from the 1960s into the ideas around reorganisation.

Sorry to repeat myself - but I think my rational needs explaining.

Yes I agree as a basic principle subsidiarity should be the rule, functions should be carried out at the lowest practicable level. Devolution was about passing powers down not centralising it at an all Wales level and certainly not about increasing the power of ministers. We have a drift to nominated, joint and single purpose bodies. This fragments accountability and makes the system opaque. We have different bodies with different boundaries. I think several of us bloggers are fairly united in the need for a regional level of government in Wales - and to my mind it would be logical to combine those nominated and joint boards within that structure.

On one level the Home Office is right, the "blue light" services have a lot in common and would benefit from joint planning. In Wales we have one ambulance trust, 4 police forces and 3 fire authorities, for me the best fit would be to merge the services into one regional structure - comprising 5 Welsh regional authorities.

Health and Social services form a continuum of care, it make sense that they should be administered by one organisation, rather than split between nominated health boards and unitary authorities, again I would maintain that the body best suited to do that would be the proposed regional authorities. I'd add the safeguarding children boards in with that structure too.

Education below higher education used to be the remit of county councils, further education was split from counties and "nationalised", again I think that further education and school based education form a continuum that is best administered jointly. At present we have 4 education consorta and 22 education authorities. The consensus is that almost all the 22 authorities are too small to properly administer education - so once again I'd suggest that the regions provide the best fit.

Transport, we have the Transport Commissioners, and 4 transport consortia - together with the 22 unitaries - some of which run (if at arms length) bus services. They also are responsible for major highways. Again the best fit for these functions would be the regional bodies- promoting integrated transport should be a duty on these regional bodies.

Waste disposal rather than collection - the rationale there is one of economy of scale, already we are seeing local authorities forming ad hoc regional consortia to maximise efficiency in recycling waste. Making it a function of the regions would formalise the existing arrangements.

I throw economic planning in there as I think the regions should be substantial bodies and I think they form natural units for major planning....

Id leave the lower level of community councils - and somewhat strengthen them.

What is left to the current unitary authorities - well firstly with the reduced functions do we need them, I'd say yes - there is need for both local regional and intermediary authorities. The regions cover very large geographical areas and the communities are to small to run other local services. What remains for them... leisure services, libraries, consumer protection, housing, public open spaces, markets, local planning - minor roads. Do we need 22 of them, probably, and we can probably stretch to breaking some up, maybe RCT to its component authorities and for my Northern region I'd split Montgomery from Powys.