A new report has called for a reduction in the number of education services operating in Wales in order to improve the support they offer staff in teaching jobs across the country.
Nearly one quarter of education authorities in Wales are either currently or have in the past been placed in special measures by schools watchdog Estyn, which has warned specialist education staff are too thinly spread within councils.
Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews responded in January 2013 by commissioning Robert Hill, a former advisor to ex-prime minister Tony Blair, to produce recommendations for how these structural issues could be resolved.
Mr Hill's report has now been published in full and among the potential solutions it endorses is the possibility of cutting Wales' 22 education authorities by a third.
He claims the considerable number of small local authorities involved in education provision is part of the problem, but that until now many have been reluctant to consider the possibilities of jointly appointing directors of education services and merging services.
Nonetheless, Mr Hill is also critical of the "variable" performance of the four educational consortia already working across local authority boundaries in Wales, blaming this on flawed leadership arrangements.
In the medium term, he advocates a wholesale revision of local authority education functions and boundaries, as part of the wider review of the way public services are delivered in the country.
Mr Hill asserted: "The focus must be on bringing clarity to the existing system, consolidating the number of education services and ensuring that all the consortia are operating as effectively as possible as quickly as possible. There is real urgency on this issue."
Responding to the report, Mr Andrews praised the "compelling" options it offered for improving the shape and structure of Welsh education, which will now be subjected to a 12-week consultation process.
He added that achieving "organisational coherence and excellence", rather than solely focusing on outcomes for learners, was essential for raising standards and performance in Wales.
Posted by Alan Douglas