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Welsh councils plan education merger

30/10/2013 Joanna
Staff in education jobs across two Welsh counties will in future receive support from a combined education services department jointly operated by the local authorities.

Back in June, Robert Hill - an ex-adviser to former prime minister Tony Blair - produced a review commissioned by the Welsh government, which argued for the 22 education services currently operating in Wales to be cut by a third.

Mr Hill partly blamed the large proportion of schools being put into special measures on there being so many small local authorities involved in running schools, arguing instead for regional consortia with council representation on their boards to take over Welsh education.

In response to his findings, education minister Huw Lewis announced earlier this month that councils in Wales would lose their school improvement functions to four regional consortia as of next April.

Now the cabinets of Powys and Ceredigion County Councils have reached an agreement in principle to merge their existing education departments, as part of a wider series of collaborative endeavours between the two local authorities, BBC News has reported.

The councils have said the establishment of this joint body will ensure the long-term sustainability of education services across both counties.

A council spokesperson from Powys remarked: "The decision paves the way for groundbreaking work across the two county councils to strengthen the framework for education services.

"By working together we can drive up the standard of challenge and leadership that our schools need. The arrangement will ensure that there is a range of specialist support available across both areas. It has the potential to improve the life chances for our young people."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Ceredigion revealed the two local authorities have already been collaborating on improving schools and that the latest agreement between them would formalise long-term arrangements.

The Welsh government itself published a blueprint for overhauling Welsh local government back in 2011, which suggested regions in north Wales, mid and west Wales, Swansea Bay, Cwm Taf, Cardiff and Vale and Gwent run education instead of councils.

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