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Written Statement - Ministerial Intervention in Torfaen County Borough Council

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology

Earlier this year Assembly Members were informed of the outcome of Estyn’s inspection of Torfaen County Borough Council (CBC) and of the subsequent Estyn monitoring visit. I am making this statement to update Members in respect of the action I have taken in response to the inspection outcomes.

Following Estyn’s inspection of Torfaen CBC’s education services in October 2011 the authority was identified as requiring Significant Improvement and Estyn identified five recommendations for the authority to address. During the subsequent monitoring visit, Estyn concluded that the authority had partially addressed 3 of these recommendations and not addressed the remaining two. As such, it was the view of the inspection team that the authority had made insufficient progress to address the recommendations in the inspection report, improvements had been slow and the authority should be placed in the category of Special Measures.

Despite these serious weaknesses it was agreed with the authority that there would be no immediate action by the Welsh Government. It was determined that a period of time was needed to allow the authority to progress a number of actions it had in train and for it to prepare its post inspection action plan.

In late summer I was able to reflect on how best to support and challenge Torfaen moving forward. I sent a draft direction to the leader of Torfaen CBC.  The draft direction indicated that I was minded to establish a Recovery Board to provide support and challenge to the authority as it addressed the recommendations from its core inspection and monitoring visit. The draft direction stated that the authority should co-operate with the Board and provided the Board with reserve powers of direction.  The authority was invited to respond to the draft direction.

Following this consultation with the authority I wrote to the Leader on 23 October 2013 and issued the direction.  The direction set out the membership of the Board as:

  • Steve Dalton OBE, Managing Director of Sony UK Technology Centre, Pencoed;
  • Mel Ainscow – Professor of Education and co-Director of the Centre for Equity in Education at Manchester.
  • Associate Professor Sue Davies – Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Wales Trinity St David; and  
  • Councillor Huw David – Cabinet member for Children and Young People at Bridgend County Borough Council.

However, having reflected on the make up of the Board I have determined to further augment the membership with the addition of:

  • Eifion Evans – Director of Education and Community Services at Ceredigion County Council and lead education director for the ERW (Education through Regional Working) consortia; and
  • Joyce Redfearn – former Chief Executive of Wigan Council and Monmouthshire Council and member of the Expert Group who assisted in the development of the National Model for Regional Working.  

As the Board membership has been expanded, I have informed the Leader of Torfaen CBC of the additional members.

I will be keeping the structure and membership of the Board under review as this work progresses and will update Members on progress as the work of the Board develops.