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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’.

News

Crabb takes up the reins as Wales Committee chair

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has been elected as the new chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee in Parliament.

Stephen Crabb, who served as Secretary of State for Wales from 2014 to 2016, secured support from across the political divide to be elected unopposed, and is looking forward to taking on the new role.

He received nominations from MPs drawn from of all parties in Wales as well as being supported by numerous other MPs from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The committee examines the work of the Wales Office and other UK departments in Wales. It takes evidence from Ministers, experts and other witnesses in order to make recommendations that benefit Wales and its economy.

Following the announcement, Stephen Crabb said: “This is an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to have received support from such a wide cross-section the House of Commons, including from Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs. By drawing on the knowledge and passion of MPs from all parties, the committee can help to shape a positive and optimistic agenda for Wales at a time of enormous change.

“Post-Brexit trade deals, the Shared Prosperity Fund, infrastructure investment and the climate challenge will all have an impact on Wales in the years ahead. The Welsh Affairs Committee will provide an essential forum for examining Government action in these areas and ensuring that the unique circumstances of Wales are properly understood.”

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Business

Old barracks promised new lease of life

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THE COMPANY which has purchased the iconic defensible barracks in Pembroke Dock have promised to breathe new life into the historic building.

The grade II fort was built in the Victorian era to provide a military defence to the Royal Dockyard. It was recently sold for an undisclosed sum to VR1844 Ltd. The company directors are listed as Jonathan McDermott, Emma Jane Morby, Lai Hang Seto, and Iain Trevor Walker.

VR1844Ltd office manager Tanya McDermott said: “VR1844 believe people never truly own a building but are the buildings guardians for a period of time.

“Taking the view that it is only the right development for the right building at the right time it is our privilege to bring the building back into life, repair, nurture and give back to the local community, not to shut the main doors and lock the building away from people who are interested in it and its history.

“VR1844 Ltd who have brought this very under-loved and not looked after building, want to bring the buildings back into life with a mix of community uses, together with a number of dwellings that will breathe life back into the buildings.
“To do this VR1844 are already working hard with CADW, Pembrokeshire County Council and local councillors to bring forward a scheme that all parties can support, and the community can once again be proud of.”

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News

Town councillors object to hotel on health and safety grounds

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TOWN COUNCILLORS in Milford Haven have unanimously voted to object to a planning application my Milford Haven Port Authority to build a 100-bedroom hotel on Milford Docks.
Town Mayor Terry Davies said he had had numerous requests from members of the public to try to get it refused.
Several members of the public were at the meeting to watch, including Ian Bannister and his daughter and James Kershaw – whose homes were seriously flooded in 2018 causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Cllr Lynne Turner told councillors: “We look forward to the development of the marina and the town desperately needs a hotel, but we have been contacted by a number of representatives from the Lower Priory and Havens Head area who are very concerned about the impact on flooding in their villages.
“The sewage waste from this development, and the change to water run-off, unless the Port Authority addresses the culverts in the area, then we have to assume that this must present a big risk to increased flooding.”
“We need to wait for the outcome of a report to see how the hotel will affect the villages”
“Then that report needs to be acted upon, if needs be.”
Cllr Rhys Sinnett said: “It is clear from the representation from the communities affected by the floods in 2018, they are still awaiting answers and actions from Pembrokeshire County Council to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
“Whilst no action is being taken, I don’t see how we can support anything that might raise water levels and I suggest we need to delay this as long as possible.
“There is no reference in the report to the flooding in 2018 so how can we support an application that has faulty information.”
“We have to object to this application within the scope of planning rules, and I propose that we can object in terms of health and safety.
What happened in 2018 was a had a huge impact on the health and safety of those who were living in Lower Priory and in Havens Head.
Cllr Turner then formally that the town council object, as Cllr Sinnett suggested, to the application on health and safety grounds.
Cllr Sinnett added that because of the controversial nature of the application, he would be strongly suggesting the application go before the council’s planning committee.
“That would be best for local democracy” he said, adding “this application should not be decided by officers under their delegated powers.
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