What do we think they are worth?

9th May 2008 at 01:00
The much-needed debate over the future role of Wales's 22 local authorities can no longer be brushed under the carpet
The much-needed debate over the future role of Wales's 22 local authorities can no longer be brushed under the carpet. It is time for some straight talking (page 1).

There is evidence that standards are slipping; gaps between the best and worst-performing local authorities are widening and schools' perceptions of LAs are more negative. It must be acknowledged, though, that there is some great work being done.

Professor David Reynolds makes bold assertions this week. He believes many directors of education in Wales - and their departments - have been forced into becoming reactive. He says this is the result of being swamped by Assembly government edicts. Directors in Wales are overworked and underpaid compared with their English counterparts, which is stopping many from thinking strategically.

Being bigger, says Dr Philip Dixon from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, would improve services. For those who say bigger is not best, it can mean extra resources. But what TES Cymru sought by asking for details of the salary of every director of education in Wales was to prove their worth. It showed our directors of education are value for money.

Earlier this month, the Welsh Local Government Association called for scrutiny across the public sector regarding senior salaries, along with a proper comparison of individual scales of responsibilities.

The Association also criticised those public services that would not divulge salaries - even after a Freedom of Information request. It is ironic that some local authorities also took that view with this paper.

It is evident that the demands of the Assembly government are piling on pressure from the top through to the classroom. The National Association of Head Teachers made no bones about the increasing workload of heads due to paper-pushing at its conference in Liverpool last week.

But with local authorities best placed to raise the game of underperforming schools in their communities, and hopefully prevent them from spiralling into special measures, it is only right that questions are asked. To bury our heads in the sand only does a disservice to all Wales's children.

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