Heads attack council for axing top job

30th July 1999 at 01:00
HEADteachers have passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Cardiff Council after it axed its director of education and said it would continue without a chief education officer among its senior management.

A storm of protest has accompanied the reorganisation of the unitary authority, which has seen the appointment of five "corporate managers" to run its services - none with educational experience.

Longstanding education director Tom Davies is still employed by the council, and is on paid leave, but his old job has been abolished. A new post of chief schools officer will be a second-rung managerial position, and is yet to be filled.

The Joint Conference of Cardiff Primary and Secondary Headteachers has accused the council of "denigrating" the education service and unanimously passed "a vote of no confidence in the ability of Cardiff to manage education.

Mal Davies, headteacher of Willows high school in Cardiff, said that tempers were running high: "Half of the authority's spending is on education, but we have a mix of engineers and social workers running the council."

The new council structure not only marginalised the education service but split it up, with the chief schools officer expected to lose control of adult education and other non-core services.

The National Union of Teachers has joined the campaign against the new structure and is considering a legal challenge based on the 1996 Education Act, which requires all councils to appoint a chief education officer.

But the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, councillor Russell Goodway, who heads the reorganised authority, said the changes would proceed.

"New management structures do not necessarily demand the inclusion of a dedicated educationalist in the very highest tier. At this level authorities are giving priority to the management of the authority as a single organisation, refocusing their outlook to respond to customer and not departmental needs."

Gethin Lewis, NUT Wales secretary, said the problems were fuelling wider concern about the marginalisation of education in new local authority structures.

His union is urging the new Welsh National Assembly to start ring-fencing education budgets next year. Under the existing local authority funding system in Wales, councils receive a general grant from the Government for all services. They do not receive the standard spending assessments which identify how much an English council is expected to spend on education.

Chris Bunting

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