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County appoints Welsh speaker

Carmarthenshire has appointed a new education director - and he is Welsh-speaking. Vernon Morgan, currently director of integrated children's services in Merthyr Tydfil, will take over from Alun Davies, who retires in March.

Carmarthenshire was criticised by teacher unions and the Welsh Language Board (WLB) last week, for re-advertising the post without making Welsh a requirement. There were only five responses to the first advert for the Pounds 100,000-a-year post, when Welsh was specified. The council says more Welsh speakers applied in the second round, but that it chose the best person for the job. Four people were interviewed from a list of 22.

Geraint Davies, secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, who was critical of the second advert, said: "I am very supportive of the appointment. I have worked with Vernon for six years and he is dedicated to education and to the Welsh language.

"He comes from a (rural) background that will put him in a good stead to understand the special characteristics to be found within Carmarthenshire."

The WLB also welcomed the appointment but added: "The Board's original concerns remain, in terms of the process, and we will press ahead with collecting and examining the facts under the terms of the Welsh Language Act," said a spokesperson.

Meryl Gravell, leader of Carmarthenshire council, said: "The candidates were all of a high calibre. We could have appointed any of them. We believe we have appointed a director who can successfully integrate education and children's services. We are also pleased he is a Welsh speaker."

Mr Morgan will be moving from Wales's smallest education authority to one of the largest in terms of numbers of schools. And top in his in-tray will be controversial pound;110 million plans to close, merge, amalgamate and rebuild many of the county's schools in a bid to reduce surplus places and improve facilities.

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