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Minister acts over schools crisis

20 November 07 16:53 GMT

Denbighshire's education services have been ordered to report to an "independent recovery board" each month following a critical inspection report.

Education Minister Jane Hutt also announced that watchdog body Estyn had asked the council to improve its education action plan.

Ms Hutt said she would meet the authority's leaders regularly to ensure they were "focussed" on improvements.

Denbighshire council's new leader Hugh Evans welcomed the move.

Last July Estyn concluded performance in the county was below average at ages seven, 11 and 16.

It also highlighted poor communication and poor leadership.

Ms Hutt has now told AMs: "Estyn judges that targets are not ambitious enough and that the programme of action needs to be more coherent".

She said the authority had agreed to provide a revised plan by 27 December.

"I consider that there are clear grounds for to me to intervene and to direct the authority on the basis that the authority is failing to performing its functions as an education authority to an adequate standard," she said.

"I am directing Denbighshire to co-operate with and report on, what is likely to be, a monthly basis from January to an independent education recovery board which I will establish," she added.

The minister said the board would be in place for 12-18 months, would report progress to her and make recommendations about any further action needed.

Mr Evans said he welcomed the Welsh Assembly Government's "commitment" in creating the board.

"The council fully accepts that radical changes are needed to improve standards in education and all councillors in Denbighshire have made it clear that education is the number one priority in the county," he said.

"Improvements are already being made and we will work to the best of our ability to provide a first class education to all the children and young people of Denbighshire," he added.

Combined role

Rhiannon Hughes, the authority's previous leader, lost a confidence vote on 22 October after the publication of Estyn's report.

Mr Evans also took over the education portfolio authority, as well as the council leadership.

The council's current action plan targets include improving school attendance rates, reducing exclusions and improving leadership and management.

A minimum of £700,000 additional funding in 2008-2009 has also been promised by the authority.

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

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