Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
On 1 October I gave members an update on the Hill Report in respect of consortia working. You will recall that I have made it clear to local government that I was minded:
- for local authorities to retain their statutory responsibility for education;
- to put in place a national model for regional working;
- to fund the national model for school improvement via a transfer of money from the Revenue Support Grant in 2014-15
An initial national model for regional working has been drafted and I am committed to the further co-construction of this model with local authorities, head teachers and experts in the field of school improvement. As part of the consultative process of any potential transfer from the 2014-15 settlement, I have given local authorities and the WLGA every opportunity to provide me with an alternative option. I made clear at the outset that this would have to represent a better deal for learners, and for tax-payers, than the simple top-slice of local government budgets.
I believe the Welsh Government has now received that assurance, and we have the necessary guarantees from local government that the regional agenda will be put right as a matter of urgency. As author of the report, Robert Hill has been appraised of the plan of action and agrees this represents the right way forward.
I have today agreed the following 7 key actions with the WLGA:
- That the proposed organisational options set out by Hill and in the draft national model for regional working be linked to a bilateral agreement between Welsh Government and the WLGA.
- Local government will ring-fence or protect the amount to be spent on regional working for 2014-15 and ensure that the funding is used to take forward the recommendations in Hill and the national model. This will amount to around £19million, adjusted in line with the percentage change to the local government settlement,– a significant increase on the amount currently spent on regional delivery of school improvement services
- Local government recognises the need for greater consistency and uniformity across consortia business models and proposes an approach to deliver the key components of the Hill Review and ensure a much greater level of consistency and governance is achieved.
- That a template for a new Education Delivery Agreement be formed on the basis of the Hill options and be signed by the Welsh Government and the Leader of the WLGA on behalf of all 22 local authorities. This would be underpinned by sign-off from all leaders and chief executives.
- All chief executives will personally commit to implementation and monitoring of the national model, once agreed, over the next 3 years, in accordance with consortia plans approved by the Minister.
- Implementation of the national model will commence immediately and key elements of the national model for school improvement will be in place prior to April 2014.
- In the event of non compliance to the Education Delivery Agreement by consortia or individual local authorities, local government will offer a voluntary transfer out of the RSG settlement for 2015-16 based upon the methodology used for funding regional working for 2014-15.
This offer from the WLGA recognises the underperformance in the system and provides assurances and safeguards regarding financial protection and the co-construction and delivery of the national model. I met with Councilor Ali Thomas this afternoon and have agreed the WLGA offer which now negates the need for a transfer of money from the Revenue Support Grant in 2014-15.