Issues and Challenges for Councils
All councils in Wales have a strategic responsibility for the education of children and young people in their area. They have a legal duty to ensure that every child fulfils his or her educational potential. Headteachers and school governors are responsible for the management and delivery of this education.
Four regional education consortia in North Wales, West Wales, Central South Wales and South East Wales work with schools to raise standards in education, particularly literacy and numeracy, providing a range of support which includes professional development and intervention programmes. Consortia are also assisting schools in the development and implementation of the new curriculum (see below), which becomes statutory from September 2022.
Estyn is the education and training inspectorate for Wales. They are inspecting all education and training providers in Wales at least once during the seven-year cycle that began on 1st September 2016. Estyn give three weeks’ notice of inspection, except for local government education services (10 weeks’ notice) and initial teacher education (8 weeks’ notice) and consultation on arrangements for the next cycle is well underway.
A new curriculum has been introduced in Wales, it will be taught in all schools and funded non-maintained settings (i.e. registered playgroups or private day nurseries that councils fund to provide part-time education for three and sometimes four-year-olds) up to Year 7 from September 2022. It will then roll out year by year until it includes Year 11 by 2026. Many Councillors and their residents will remember the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988. Since then, society has transformed with the introduction of new technology. Young people now require a different skill set, the new curriculum for Wales is designed to provide children and young people with digital skills, adaptability and creativity – to thrive and be prepared for their futures in a changing society.
The aim of the new curriculum (its ‘four purposes’) is to create:
- Ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
- Enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
- Ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
- Healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
The new curriculum is less prescriptive and segmented than the National Curriculum and requires schools to design their own curriculum and assessment arrangements. More information about the new curriculum is here.
As well as the modernisation of the curriculum, school buildings are also being improved through the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme. This is a collaboration between the Welsh Government and councils in Wales. It is a long-term and strategic capital investment programme with the aim of creating a generation of 21st Century Schools in Wales. We are now on the second part (band B) of the programme which runs from 2019 -2026. This aims to:
- Reduce the number of poor condition schools,
- Ensure that we have the right size schools in the right location, providing enough places to deliver Welsh and English medium education, and
- Ensure the effective and efficient use of the educational estate for use by both Schools and the wider Community.
Councils also have a duty to ensure children and young people who aren’t attending mainstream schools e.g. those who are in specialist provision, attending Pupil Referral Units, home tuition or are home educated also receive a broad and balanced education relevant to age and ability.
You can find out more about the performance of the schools in your own area here.
Whilst schools provide education in a formal way, youth work (which supports and promotes personal and social education for young people aged 11-25) is also an education provision delivered and/or procured by councils. Youth work is delivered in a less formal way and in less formal environments but based on a voluntary relationship built on trust. There are over 900 registered youth workers and youth support workers employed by councils, delivering a diverse offer.
Youth work plays an important role in engaging young people, promoting their well-being and providing (often experiential) learning opportunities in youth clubs, via online activities, and in outdoor and residential centres. This is often done in partnership with schools and other organisations.