Labour's Education Minister Leighton Andrews today announced that he is removing education from the control of Merthyr Council and looking at placing it under the control of Rhondda Cynon Taff Council. RCT Council website simply states that:
A Spokesperson for the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council's Chief Executive's Office said: "Following representations from the Welsh Government Minister for Education, this Council is in dialogue, at the Minister's request, with his officials to facilitate the delivery of the proposals outlined by Leighton Andrews AM in his statement to the Senedd this afternoon (February 26th 2013)."
This raises any number of questions which we hope will be satisfactorily answered before this goes ahead.
Firstly the Estyn report on RCT was not brilliant. On a four point scale it was graded at point 3 - "adequate." The report stated that "Estyn is of the opinion that the authority falls into the follow-up category of an Estyn monitoring visit."
Are they really in a position then to take charge of the failing education system in another Authority? Or should our senior Officers be concentrating on problems within our own back yard? Many of the problems outlined in Merthyr are mirrored in the RCT report. Albeit at a less serious level.
What will be the extent of the involvement? Will RCT take complete control? What of the elected members in Merthyr - will they still retain political control? Who will be responsible for setting and administrating the budget for Merthyr schools?
Perhaps most importantly will resources be diverted away from the education system in Rhondda Cynon Taff? Whilst our Officers are looking after the needs of Merthyr will they be taking their eye off the ball here?
Of course there are wider issues here too. Is this a first stab at reorganisation of Local Authorities by the back door? Hopefully all these questions will be asked by RCT Cabinet and answered satisfactorily before any agreement is made to go ahead with this proposal.
Estyn Report on RCTC