26 November 2013
Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, will this afternoon make a statement to Plenary on the ‘Hill Review’.
Robert Hill’s review on The future delivery of education services in Wales was published on 18 June 2013 when the then Minister for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews, also made a statement announcing a twelve week consultation on all of the options contained in the report.
In total, Hill set out 85 options under the following five headings:
- Improving teaching and learning
- Strengthening school leadership
- Increasing school partnership in a context of greater autonomy
- Improving accountability
- Organising school improvement functions
Robert Hill’s report concluded that improving the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom was the only way for schools to raise standards of achievement. Many of the options he put forward focused on how this, along with stronger leadership in schools, could be achieved. However, Hill’s report also found the current arrangements for how school improvement functions are organised in Wales to be ‘profoundly unsatisfactory’. He therefore set out a number of options, which included cutting the number of local authority education services by a third by April 2014, either by voluntary mergers or Ministerial intervention following unsatisfactory Estyn inspections.
The Welsh Government has already responded to two of the school improvement options, which it identified as most urgent, with the Minister making two statements last month.
Firstly, on 1 October 2013, he said that whilst local authorities would retain their statutory responsibility for education, there would be a national model for regional working and that regional consortia would be funded directly by ‘top-slicing’ the Revenue Support Grant (RSG). Later, on 7 October 2013, following negotiations with the WLGA, it was announced that local authorities would continue to receive school improvement funding through the RSG but that approximately £19 million would be ring-fenced or protected in 2014-15 for the regional consortia’s work as set out by the national model. In addition, local government will have to sign up to an ‘Education Delivery Agreement’ between the WLGA and the Welsh Government and if local authorities do not comply with the agreement they will lose control of school improvement funding the following year.
In the Minister’s statement of 1 October 2013, he said the remaining options in the Hill report (other than the two he addressed in that statement) were “still being analysed” and that he would “make a further statement in due course”.