April 19, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

Education Consortium set to disband

A REGIONAL education body with an annual budget of around £35 million looks set to disband.

The organisation, Education through Regional Working (ERW), was created in 2014 to help improve schools in Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion.

ERW’s joint committee agreed to a number of legal amendments at a meeting in November, including one to facilitate its dissolution by March 31 next year, subject to approval from the participating councils.

All the authorities, except Pembrokeshire and Powys, have issued notices to withdraw from the consortium or have already withdrawn.

Work will be undertaken on new partnership arrangements – one for Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, and another for Powys and Ceredigion.

The latest ERW developments, which will include addressing any liabilities and indemnities, were ratified by Swansea Council’s cabinet.

Cllr Jennifer Raynor, the cabinet member for education, improvement, learning and skills, said: “Working with ERW over the last few years has been extremely difficult.”

She said its creation in April 2014 “seems a very long time ago” and that “it was a very different landscape for education”.

The six counties, she said, were very different and that it had been very hard “to move in an equitable manner and to ensure the improvement of all schools.”

Cllr Raynor said ERW’s budget in 2020-21 was just over £35 million, of which £21 million went straight to schools in the form of pupil deprivation grants.

She said Swansea Council had indicated its intention to withdraw from ERW in March this year – the month when Neath Port Talbot Council left the consortium.

Cabinet approved the recommendations made by ERW last month to vary the legal agreement.

Cllr Raynor said:

“If all remaining authorities serve notice to withdraw, it will enable ERW to be dissolved and authorities to then formulate mutually beneficial organisations better placed to support school improvement going into the 2020s.”

A council legal officer said the council was still in discussions with the other authorities, and that the draft legal variation was likely to be amended further.

Cllr Raynor said: “This is an incredibly complicated situation.

“We are literally playing it as we go along.”

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