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Director claims she did not receive email about fiddled test results

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THE COUNCIL’S Director for Children and Schools did not have an email which quoted her saying ‘little was to be gained’ from investigating a complaint that pupils’ test results had been fiddled with.

It was revealed at Thursday’s (Jul 12) Audit Committee that the person who sent the email had met with the Director, Mrs Kate Evan-Hughes, to discuss the matter.

Mrs Evan-Hughes did not deny that she had used those words but when questioned she said she did not have the email as she had not been copied in.

The email was sent in response to Saundersfoot School’s new headteacher who referred the matter to a member of the council’s education workforce just ten days after taking up his post.

He was told that there was ‘little to be gained’ from an investigation and that he may want to re-test the pupils.

However, in 2017, an Education Workforce Council (EWC) hearing found that the former headteacher of Saundersfoot School, Mrs Helen Lester, had falsified pupils’ test results in a bid to make the school look better.

Cllr Jacob Williams raised the matter under an urgent question at the December 2017 Full Council meeting where he was told that a referral had been made in 2015 but that it was not taken further.

When a second complaint was made it was dealt with and Cllr Williams is now seeking answers as to why the first complaint was swept under the carpet.

The matter has been discussed by the Council’s Audit Committee and it was the request of members at their meeting in January that the Director for Children and Schools, Kate Evan-Hughes, be invited to attend the next meeting.

However, she did not attend the March meeting and members again requested that she be ‘required’ to attend the next meeting.

On Thursday, Cllr Williams said: “The new headteacher, within 10 days of taking up the post, reported to the council his concerns about the test results.

“I am not aware of what that report to the council says but he was told that there no need for it to be investigated.

“In June 2016, there were two more disclosures made to the council and Mr Westley and I am satisfied that the right things happened then. It is the handling of the first referral that I am interested in.”

The Director for Children and Schools, Kate Evan-Hughes said: “It was a verbal referral to a member of the education directorate, there was a low-level investigation and it is accepted that the robustness of that investigation was not adequate.”

Cllr Williams asked about the nature of the referral and Mrs Evan-Hughes said that the person referring the matter was concerned that results were questionable.

Cllr Williams asked if there was a suspicion that the results had been fiddled but Mrs Evan-Hughes said there was an implied criticism of the previous headteacher.

At the last meeting, Cabinet member for education, Cllr David Lloyd said that no evidence had been provided to substantiate those concerns.

Cllr Williams added that the new headteacher was told in an email that ‘little was to be gained from an investigation’ and that it seemed they were trying to sweep the matter ‘under the carpet’.

Kate Evan-Hughes said there had been inadequacies in the past but that the service was more robust now.

Cllr Williams asked who had sent the email but the Council’s legal officer, Clair Incledon, intervened saying the Director had no knowledge of that.

Chief Executive Ian Westley also stepped in saying that the answer would be of a personal nature.

Cllr Williams said that Senior Challenge advisor Paul Hughes had sent the email which also said that he had met with the director who said she felt there was ‘little to be gained’ by an investigation.

Mrs Evan-Hughes said she did not have the email as she had not been copied in.

Mr Westley again stepped in saying the debate was starting to sound like a trial adding that the matter had been dealt with thoroughly by an internal investigation.

Cllr Williams said it was not a matter where the council could say it has been dealt with and added that because the officer was of such seniority the public deserved to know what happened.

He went on to say that some pupils’ scores were lower when they were re-tested and that Mrs Lester was subsequently employed by the council after she retired from her post at Saundersfoot School.

Cllr Williams concluded by saying he hoped that the Chief Executive could see that there were aggravating features in the case which didn’t look good and which could have created a perception there was a ‘cover-up’.

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Man arrested at Penally Training Camp for arson and criminal damage

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A 29-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and criminal damage at the Penally Training Camp.

Police and ambulances services attended the camp last night (Sept 30).

Police said that the man remains in police custody.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We were called last night to reports of a patient needing medical attention at Penally Camp. We responded with one emergency ambulance and one person was transported to Withybush Hospital.”

It is unknown at this time is the man arrested was an asylum seeker or a local person.

He is the third person to be arrested in connection with the camp in recent days.

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Police probe into racist Facebook comments over Penally asylum seekers

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A NEIGHBOURING police force have confirmed that they are investigating grossly offensive comments on a Facebook group that suggest that asylum seekers staying at the MOD Training Camp in Penally should be gassed or shot.

Around 234 asylum seekers—Kurdish Iraqis and Kurdish Iranians—are set to be housed at the camp.

Many of the protesters are locals concerned about their communities after a lack of communication of the arrival of the asylum seekers by the home Office, but South Wales police believe that some of the protests outside the camp have been organised by far-right elements based in Swansea.

Two people have been arrested in connection with protests. One person released without charge, and another, – a well-known right leaning You Tube vlogger from outside the local area has been bailed on the condition he says out of the county.

Some of the shocking posts state: “Run the bastards over”… “Put a bullet in their heads if they can’t respect others” or “Tell your family to keep everything locked up, 250 new thieves, rapist and paedophiles are about to arrive in the area.”

Far-right activist Tommy Robinson has added his voice to the Penally Camp protest campaign. The founder of the English Defence League dubbed the prospect of the camp housing up to 250 asylum seekers as ‘sickening’, which has led to more interest in Penally online.
The Pembrokeshire Herald has engaged Facebook moderators after news articles, which now reach one million people online, were spammed with racist comments. 6,000 comments have already been checked, and hundreds deleted this newspaper can confirm.

A police spokesman said: “South Wales Police is looking into a number of inflammatory posts published on social media concerning the accommodation of asylum seekers at Penally in Pembrokeshire. Users of social media are requested to be mindful of the language used when publishing posts.”

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There are no illegal immigrants in Penally, Home Office confirms

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THE HOME OFFICE has been in touch with The Pembrokeshire Herald to clarify some of the queries that locals have regarding the Penally Army Camp, now being used to house asylum seekers.

The Management Team at the asylum seeker holding unit have refused to engage with the local County Councillor, John Preston, but the information now received could go some way to answer some of the questions which have, until now, remained unanswered on social media, and by the local member himself.

Firstly, there has been speculation about the immigration status of those people held in Penally. The government has now confirmed that those being housed in MoD sites are people “currently awaiting asylum decisions”.

This means that all of the people in the camp have applied for asylum officially, and that they are currently in the United Kingdom legally. This is because a refugee, who has presented himself to the UK authorities without delay, showed good cause for his entry or presence and has made a claim for asylum as soon as was reasonably practicable, is afforded protection in law from offences connected with that entry. It is legal for people to enter the country in a manner which would normally be illegal, as long as it was for the purposes of seeking asylum.

The people who are staying at Penally Camp are new to the UK, having arrived in boats or in the back of lorries – but they have already been quarantined and screened for Covid-19.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “In line with guidelines about arrivals into the United Kingdom, asylum seekers will have first spent a 14-day quarantine period in other temporary accommodation before, providing they do not display any symptoms of Covid-19, being moved to the MoD sites [including Penally].”

The Home Office also said that whenever using contingency accommodation, they “ensure that detailed assessment is carried out to ensure asylum seekers have the support services they need. If there are any issues that need to be addressed, we will work with our contractor and other partners to find solutions.

Suggesting that the decision to use Penally Camp was made in a rush the Home Office said: “There are times where contingency accommodation must be procured and mobilised at speed to ensure we meet our legal obligations.”

The spokesman added: “The Home Office is committed to working collaboratively with communities and stakeholders to ensure that destitute asylum seekers are provided with safe, secure and suitable accommodation while their asylum claims are considered. This includes working in partnership with local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups in England and Local Health Boards in Wales, Public Health England and Wales, the Welsh Government and local police forces. We have specifically set up an Asylum Accommodation Strategic Working Group to support collaborative working.

“Our ambition is to house asylum seekers within the asylum estate without the need for contingency accommodation. We are working to address the issues putting pressure on our asylum accommodation. This includes resuming support cessations, to get people moving out of accommodation when their cases are concluded, and also to continue to take steps to address illegal migration and the exploitation and organised criminality that goes with it, including the dangerous Channel crossings we have seen in recent times”.

THREAT OF ARREST

In regards to the protests in Penally, the Home Office spokesperson said: “We will not tolerate any attempts to fuel resentment towards asylum seekers and we will take all the necessary steps to protect people in our care.

“We continually review the security at asylum accommodation sites with providers, who work closely with local police to ensure action is taken if someone tries to access a site.”

The information sent from the Home Office came on the day that more asylum seekers were bussed into the camp, under the escort of unmarked police vehicles (Sept 28).
One solitary protestor was on hand to attempt to block the bus, but under the threat of arrest he was moved out of the way by a police officer.

On Monday evening, some of the asylum seekers from the camp came to the gates to speak to protestors. One of those protestors, James Gould, a member of the Facebook group ‘Penally Against Illegal Migrant Camp’ live streamed an ad-hoc interview with one of the camp residents, which has now been seen by over 20,000 people.

COUNCILLOR WANTS HIS VOICE HEARD

Meanwhile, Cllr Preston is pushing forward with his plan to spread national awareness about what is happening in Penally. He told the press over the weekend: “I spoke with a Home Office official last week and stated that I am deeply uncomfortable with the possibility that our human rights obligations may not be possible to uphold in such a facility”

“It is my understanding that the asylum seekers have been removed from support networks established within the UK who have the infrastructure to provide them with their essential medical, spiritual, emotional, and domestic needs.

“They have then been transported during the night to Penally where they have witnessed mass protests and media attention.

“Due to the highly prominent location of the camp it has now become a point of public curiosity creating an environment of anxiety and fear for those on both sides of the fence.

“I have met with residents and business owners over the weekend, and it is still not clear why such a facility has been established in the heart of one of Europe’s premier holiday destinations.

“I am in contact with the BBC with a view to raising national awareness of the situation at Penally Camp and how it has been implemented by the Home Office as I consider this to be of national importance.

“It will not benefit anyone to have a government enquiry in five years’ time to tell us lessons have been learnt’. The injustice is happening now in real time and this decision must be re-called as a matter of urgency”

In other comments to the press the councillor said: “No consideration has been afforded to the elderly population in the area or to the needs of a large group of vulnerable adults. The autocratic manner in which this decision has been made should be a concern to us all. We will continue to demand that it is reconsidered”

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