MONMOUTHSHIRE council chiefs gave their reaction to today’s damining education report and vowed to make improvements, while the opposition group called for the head of education to stand down.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Cllr Liz Hacket Pain, said a number of issues highlighted in the report had already been addressed. This includes the implementation of the council’s own safeguarding policy and its commitment to spend £80million with the Welsh Government on new secondary schools under the 21st Century Schools programme.

Three chief officers, who have vast experience in education, have also been employed to help run the department and make improvements until a new head of education starts next month.

Officers will now work with the chair of governors of all schools, as well as head teachers, to discuss the findings and talk about what to do next, she said.

The Labour group on Monmouthshire council last night called for Councillor Hacket Pain to resign.
Chepstow Cllr Dimitri Batrouni said: "The Estyn report is incredibly disappointing. The Labour group feels the parents and children of Monmouthshire have been let down."

"We find Cllr Hacket Pain's position is untenable. She should consider her position and resign."

Howevere, the council’s chief executive Paul Matthews said that despite the negativity of the report, Monmouthshire’s secondary schools were among the top three performers in Wales, with 75 per cent of students achieving five A*to C grades at GCSE.

He said: “Young people do well here, we just expect them to do better.” He said the council’s part in the Gwent-wide education achievement service, which started in September, was one of the key factors in driving up standards, by sharing good practice.

Both Cllr Peter Fox and Cllr Hacket Pain said they would not shy away from their responsibilities and reiterated education was one of the council’s priorities.

Opposition councillors last night called for Cllr Hacket Pain to resign but she said she would not be stepping down.

Cllr Fox said: “If there are shortcomings on our watch, they will be put right on our watch. When you are leader of an authority, you lead through difficult times as well as good times. I am passionate about education, as is Liz, and we will make sure the issues are addressed.”

Cllr Fox defended the council for not making the findings public before Estyn published its report, even though councillors at a council meeting last month called for it to do so.

He said it was not the council’s place to reveal the information. He said Cllr Hacket Pain tried to get permission to release it earlier and it was published ahead of schedule.