Education Chiefs' High Pay Comes under Attack; SALARIES OF MORE THAN PS100K PAID FOR 'ADEQUATE' RESULTS

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Byline: GARETH EVANS Education Correspondent gareth.evans@walesonline.co.uk

COUNCILS in Wales have been criticised for paying senior education officers large sums of money amid evidence of substandard school services. Education watchdog Estyn has now inspected all but one of Wales' 22 local authority education services.

Estyn rates on a four-point scale and so far in Wales there have been 10 "adequates", six "unsatisfactories" and just five councils deemed "good".

There has been no "excellent" and there are several local authorities in "special measures". Given the relatively poor performance of council education services, critics have questioned why those in charge of delivery pocket such hefty salaries.

It comes as changes introduced by the Westminster Government this autumn sees teachers' pay linked to performance in the classroom - with schools themselves setting salaries.

Since launching its new inspection framework in 2010, Estyn has been highly critical of school services and only six councils have been deemed to have "good" or better leadership.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of education union ATL Cymru, said teachers and parents will be "stunned" by some of the salaries being pocketed.

"Moreover, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to the variation in what is being paid," he said.

"We should also ask ourselves if a small country like ours can afford all these well-paid education chiefs, or find sufficient people of suitable calibre to fill all these posts."

Data compiled by the Western Mail highlights the variation between the salary of directors of education ranging from PS61,476 in Pembrokeshire to PS120,000 in Cardiff. Councils whose leadership is considered "unsatisfactory" pay education leaders as much as PS98,581 a year for their services.

Leadership of Denbighshire's education services is considered the best in Wales and was ranked "excellent" after a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. In its 2012 report, Estyn said relationships with schools had improved significantly since Denbighshire's previous inspection in 2007, which found education provision "unsatisfactory".

Karen Evans, a former headteacher who started as Denbighshire's new head of school improvement and inclusion in 2010, is paid PS74,771 a year.

Ms Evans has responsibility for 57 schools and 15,630 pupils. Hilary Anthony, who presided over 62 schools and 22,480 pupils in Bridgend prior to her recent retirement, received an annual salary of PS104,068.

Bridgend's education services and leadership were deemed "adequate" by inspectors last year, which was the same verdict dished out to Cardiff in 2011. Cardiff's new director of education and lifelong learning Nick Batchelar takes home PS120,000 a year, but only joined the authority from Bristol council earlier this summer.

The future of local authorities in Wales has become increasingly uncertain following the publication in June of a wide-ranging report into education delivery by former UK Government advisor Robert Hill.

His review, currently under consideration by ministers, suggested transferring some statutory education functions to Wales' four regional consortia.

If approved, the move would effectively cut out the layer of accountability provided by local authority education services and make consortia directly answerable to elected members. Mr Hill, a former aide to Tony Blair, also suggested reducing Wales' 22 local education authorities by a third by April 2014. Dr Dixon said the scaling back of councils "cannot come fast enough" and "the fragmentation of education" is costing Wales in terms of finance and what children achieve.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance campaign group, said: "It's unacceptable that Welsh local education authorities have been given such a poor rating, especially given the very generous assessment scale used by the watchdog. …