BBC Home > BBC News > Wales

Action plan over failing schools

5 November 07 12:56 GMT

Denbighshire's top council official has rejected calls for the education minister to intervene over the county's education problems.

Chief executive Ian Miller spoke as the council sent a draft action plan to education watchdog Estyn, after damning reports on its education services.

Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones said she was not convinced the plan would work, and again urged the minister to step in.

Estyn will consider the plans before responding within two to three weeks.

But Mr Miller said it "would be the wrong course" for Jane Hutt to intervene.

In the 40-page report, the council claims it will raise standards and school attendance rates within the next five years.

Other key targets include reducing exclusions from schools, improving leadership and management, and introducing a minimum of £700,000 additional funding in 2008-2009.

But Ms Jones told BBC Radio Wales: "The action plan is written nicely, there are lots of warm words and phrases there, but I believe it lacks capacity to actually deliver what it's meant to."

She said she still believed Ms Hutt should intervene in the education authority to prevent "uncertainty" for teaching staff.

She added: "I called for special measures from the word go, as soon as the damning report came out from Estyn, and I haven't seen anything that's made me feel I need to change my view."

"Weaknesses"

Mr Miller, who submitted the 40-page action plan to the Welsh Assembly Government and Estyn, said: "We acknowledge that there are weaknesses and that we need to improve.

"We're talking about substantial change more than carrying on with how things were, because obviously we were being criticised for how things were, so we need to change.

"We don't want to have intervention. Intervention could involve councillors being removed altogether from decision-making on education in Denbighshire and that's not something they want to contemplate.

"We're now reasonably confident that this [action plan] will persuade the minister and Estyn that intervention would be the wrong course of action this time."

Ms Hutt has already warned the authority she could intervene unless standards improve.

The Estyn report, published in September, found "ineffective" political leadership at the council and failures to address poor performance.

Estyn's 35-page report said children's educational performance was below average at the ages of seven, 11 and at 16 when they take their GCSEs.

At a crisis meeting in October, the council accepted "radical change" was needed to improve education in the county.

In 2006, Denbighshire came 19th of the 22 authorities in Wales for the percentage of students gaining two AS/A levels.

The local authority's former leader Rhiannon Hughes was ousted after a no-confidence vote, following the Estyn report.

She and her cabinet were removed from office following a council vote on 22 October.

Hugh Evans looks set to be the next leader of Denbighshire and he faces a council vote on Tuesday.

The education watchdog is expected to say within three weeks whether it considers Denbighshire's action plan adequate or if it will be returned to the local authority for amendment.

Related BBC sites

*