MONMOUTHSHIRE'S responsibility over education could be passed to another body in the wake of a damning Estyn report into the authority.

But that could be the thin edge of the wedge ahead of a possible major reform of how our schools are run in Wales – with the Welsh Government saying small councils have proved incapable of providing a quality service.

The Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews says urgent action is required now after Estyn deemed Monmouthshire and Merthyr Tydfil's educational performance to be unsatisfactory in reports published today.

At both authorities the Labour AM for Rhondda said he is considering the establishment of independent recovery boards to oversee improvements, monitor progress and provide accountability.

"A further option I am considering is the handing over of some or all of the executive functions in relation to education services to another body," he said.

He said: "I am very concerned to note the findings and the recommendations of both of these Estyn reports. Both authorities are in a serious position and it is abundantly clear that urgent action is required now to turn this around."

Mr Andrews' statement to AMs did not elaborate on what kind of body the minister has in mind. He added that a further update to AMs would be provided in the coming weeks.

The reports come while a review is underway into whether control for education should be taken out of the hands of councils.

A spokesman for Mr Andrews said: "Things clearly cannot go on as they are. Too many education authorities are failing to deliver for their young people."

"They fail to intervene at an early enough stage when things go wrong in a school. Surely, no more evidence is required as grounds for changing the structure of education in Wales.

"Our smallest local authorities have proved incapable of providing a quality strategic service that would provide the support that schools, parents and our young people should expect."

Robert Hill, the former adviser to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair who is conducting the review, told reporters that the reports show some small local authorities don't have strategic capacity to run a proper education service.

However he said the message was getting through to councils.

Mr Andrews has himself previously said he wouldn't have invented 22 local education authorities, and said their creation had led to the downturn in educational performance.

Plaid Cymru education spokesperson Simon Thomas AM today said the reports confirm the emerging picture of a dysfunctional and unequal education system in Wales.

"To date, not one local education authority has been judged “excellent” and three are in special measures already. Now both Monmouth and Merthyr have been found wanting."

"Clearly the review of the future of local education authorities is necessary and some kind of restructuring and refocus is needed. However we must not let this get in the way of the simple improvement of classroom teaching of literacy and numeracy and key skills."