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Quality of life is not strain'd, if you can find an opening

Monmouthshire? Don't you mean Gwent?

No. The local education authority used to be Gwent County Council before it was carved up into unitary authorities in 1996.

And before the previous local government shake-up in 1974 it was I Monmouthshire.

This reverting to the Anglicised name is in keeping with its character: only 2 per cent of the population speak Welsh. Nestling along the south-east Wales border, Monmouthshire is mainly rural, dotted with market towns and villages.

Sounds idyllic. When do I start?

Not so fast. While schools in south-east England battle to fill posts, in Monmouthshire it's a case of "crisis, what crisis?" There are very few teaching vacancies apart from Welsh as a second language at secondary schools. One primary school recently had 86 applicants for three posts.

A Monmouthshire education spokeswoman said: "We have just appointed a behaviour support co-ordinator who has taken a drop in salary to come and work in south Wales because of the quality of life. It's an attractive area to work in."

What is the education authority like?

It is a comparatively small authority but it covers a big geographical area. Monmouthshire has eight infant schools, seven juniors, 28 through primary schools, four secondary schools and one special school. The schools range from village schools with two or three teachers to big comprehensives with more than 1,300 pupils.

A recent report by the Welshinspectorate Estyn found the LEA's performance in maths to be the highest in Wales for key stages 1 and 2 and well above the national average for KS3 and 4.

The authority lacks provision for pupils with severe learning difficulties and an increasing number of pupils with difficulties are taught in mainstream schools.

Monmouthshire says it has very close partnerships with its schools. Last year the county hit the headlines over the case of Marjorie Evans, the junior school head who was cleared after it was alleged that she slapped an unruly pupil. She is now back in her job.

Much to do when the marking is done?

Not a vast amount. There are the charming towns of Monmouth, Abergavenny, Chepstow and Usk, and lots of countryside to roam in once the ban due to foot and mouth disease is lifted. Country pubs and restaurants abound and there is the splendid Wye Valley with the ruins of Tintern Abbey. If you hanker after night life, you're a short hop from Bristol across the Severn and Cardiff further west.

Can I afford to live there?

Three-bedroom semi-detached houses in Chepstow range from pound;70,000 up to pound;115,000; you can rent a one-bedroom flat there for pound;360 a month; and the county has a large provision of local authority and housing association homes.

Any famous sons, daughters or residents?

Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame, Admiral Horatio Nelson, writer Alexander Cordell.

Martin Whittaker

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