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The education minister has defended his intervention in the troubled education service at Blaenau Gwent council on 21 May 2013.

Leighton Andrews was responding to an urgent question in plenary from Plaid Cymru's Simon Thomas.

He said the critical Estyn report had been compiled in January but "regrettably" not published until last week.

He said he had met yesterday with the commissioner currently responsible for running education in Blaenau Gwent and expected her to remain in place for the next 12 months.

The local education authority at the council has been heavily criticised by inspectors as being unsatisfactory but the Welsh government was criticised by opposition parties after it failed to improve despite the imposition of commissioners to oversee its work.

Mr Andrews insisted that there had been some positive signs and that the work of the commissioners would continue.

The minister says he has opened discussions with Northern Ireland about establishing joint exam standards - independent of England.

He said a letter to him from UK Education Secretary Michael Gove, sent yesterday, had been "widely leaked" to the London media by "sources close to the minister".

The letter from Mr Gove raised the prospect of an end to the current three-country consensus between England, Wales and Northern Ireland for exam standards.

Mr Gove said in his letter that it was "a natural and legitimate consequence of devolution" that exam systems in the three countries would increasingly diverge.

But it raises issues about how common standards can be maintained between exams sat in the three countries of the UK if, as Mr Gove suggested, no consensus about those standards could be reached in future.

Mr Andrews said he had begun discussions today about establishing a new two-country system between Wales and Northern Ireland - but conceded there were many issues to be address before this could be implemented.

The Labour AM Vaughan Gething, who asked Mr Andrews an urgent question on the letter, said he felt the message from Mr Gove to Wales was not "you can go your own way" but rather "you must go your own way".

Mr Gething said he believed exam reforms were based on "ideology" in England and said changes in Wales should be based on evidence and the needs of learners.

Darllenwch hwn yn Gymraeg

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