Wales' education department boss quits two years in

12th October 2012 at 01:00
DfES in need of 'stability' after six leaders in seven years

The head of Wales' education department is leaving after just two years in the job, sparking concern among educationalists about civil service leadership in the principality.

Whoever is chosen to replace Dr Emyr Roberts (pictured below), who is leaving to head up a new natural resources body, will be the sixth director general of Wales' Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in seven years.

Dr Roberts, a career civil servant, was appointed to the former Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills in October 2010 to bring a "clear sense of direction".

The previous incumbent, Professor David Hawker, had also been in post for two years when he left amid rumours of furious arguments with education minister Leighton Andrews.

The Department subsequently came in for heavy criticism from Mr Andrews for being "culturally and geographically fragmented, without a clear focus". He accused civil servants of being weak on policy implementation.

Dr Roberts will start his new role in November, and said the arrangements for his successor will be announced shortly. In a letter to colleagues last week, he wrote: "I am sad to be leaving the Department, but I can honestly say that the last two years have been the most exhilarating of my career so far."

Derek Jones, permanent secretary to the Welsh government, congratulated Dr Roberts and said that his leadership and hard work would leave a lasting legacy.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the ATL Cymru teaching union, said: "Dr Roberts streamlined the education department and made its structure far more sensible, and he also helped give the Department a much clearer focus and direction.

"His successor will need to be chosen with care."

Rebecca Williams, policy officer at Welsh teaching union UCAC, said that although the DfES is more focused than it was, education in Wales is undergoing a "phenomenal" amount of change, as well as an increasing divergence from English policy.

"What we need now - and we've said this before - is a period of stability, and someone at the helm with a deep and sophisticated understanding of the Welsh education system, its strengths, its weaknesses and its needs," she said.

Chris Tweedale, the highly rated director of the Welsh government's Schools and Young People Group, is favourite to take over the role.

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