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Continuing controversy over College scheme



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Artist’s impression: The new sixth form centre

PROPOSALS for a new £6.6m A-Level Centre were unveiled at Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest, on Monday (Jan 18).

A press release from the College describes the plan as a ‘cutting edge centre which will allow the college’s A-Level students and students from Ysgol Bro Gwaun and Ysgol Dewi Sant to attend the college for sixth form education from September 2017, subject to ministerial approval’.

The plans for the centre promise “exceptional sixth form facilities” including new science laboratories, vibrant classrooms, flexible delivery space, high quality sports facilities and state-of-the-art learning technology.

Pembrokeshire College’s principle, Sharron Lusher said: “By investing in an A-level Centre, we are investing in the futures of the young people of Pembrokeshire and showing our commitment to providing the best educational opportunities possible, both now and in the future,”


The development is planned to be a two-storey new building on the campus, which will be linked to the existing college. The vocational areas are also being remodelled, and with the location of the centre A-level learners will be able to have access to vocational qualifications.

Last year the college reported the A-level enrolments increasing to 150, over double the previous year, with the proposed merger with Fishguard and St Davids sixth forms an additional 100 students are expected for 2017 with the figure increasing the following year to 170.

This will see Pembrokeshire College become the largest provider of A-level qualifications in the county. It will be run by an A-level committee, which will consist of school, college and local authority representation.

“This is an extremely exciting time for both Pembrokeshire and Pembrokeshire College,” said Mrs Lusher.

“The A-level Centre will provide a dynamic environment that will allow us to prepare our young people for the workplace or higher education. With almost 200 learners progressing to university last year, the centre will become a valuable resource in helping even more learners to progress to some of the UK’s top universities.”


The College anticipates the £6.6m will be funded partly through Welsh Government 21st Century School funding and partly by itself. In practice this potentially means that the local authority will be stumping up half the development costs, as the College does not have the money to complete the project unaided.

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Considering alternatives: School governor Paul Lucas

The Herald has been told by a member of College staff that the College’s intention to begin works in June 2016, and that internal works will begin at that time.

The plans include a sports centre and new science labs.

There will be a new reception area, increasing the Hair & Beauty department and drama facilities.

Our source told us that existing members of staff expect classrooms to be ‘tarted up’. Quite how the College intends to address what are understood to be significant concerns by potential students about the level of tutor support has not been specified.

In addition, owing to the lack of expert teachers at the College to teach the full-range of A Level subjects, there are also concerns at the concentration on too narrow a curriculum, unless the College and Council are somehow able to co-ordinate all teaching provision across every Pembrokeshire secondary school and compel teachers to teach A Level classes at the College.

At no stage has the authority specified how it intends to resolve timetabling, staffing, and pay issues, despite now being more than five years into the 21st Century Schools programme.


The Herald has been told by a separate source at Pembrokeshire College that the organisation’s underlying strategy is to create a centre to entice pupils away from schools whose governing bodies, parents, and stakeholders resist the blandishments of the College and the pressure from the Council. Meanwhile The Herald has established that a combined sixth form of Tasker-Milward and Sir Thomas Picton schools would more than meet the minimum requirement for student numbers for a viable sixth form.

Were the College to make its own application for 21st Century Funding, it would be compelled to carry its own consultations with affected parties instead of having the local authority fight those battles on its behalf.

Planning consent has not yet been sought for the development, which also has to be approved by the Welsh Government before works can begin and public money allocated it. The Herald understands there is a significant risk that the grand scheme will not be approved by the Welsh Government as long as the issue of Haverfordwest Schools’ futures remains undetermined.

Such a prospect places added pressure on Pembrokeshire County Council to force through its own wishes for the reorganisation of sixth form education regardless of opposition or potential legal challenge.

The Herald has been told that legal action is more probable than not, as the Council seems prepared to ‘play chicken’ to get its own way. Council Chief Ian Westley is particularly keen to avoid a potentially prolonged legal dispute regarding post-16 education in the town, particularly given the potential for embarrassment to the authority thanks to its blundering, duplicitous, and heavy-handed approach to the consultation process – a hangover from a previous executive regime.


Paul Lucas, Chair of the Joint Governing Body of Tasker-Milward and Sir Thomas Picton Schools said: “In Haverfordwest the Tasker Milward Governors are still looking for a single new 11 to 19 secondary school with equally good facilities to embrace a wide academic curriculum including a full range of sporting and community amenities.

The vast majority of parents and pupils have already made their views clear to the governors in that a sixth form within a school is an inherent and influential part of that school. If the sixth form is removed from the school this will, in our view, cause irreparable damage to what is left of that school, and this aspect is particularly important in our Pembrokeshire community.

“The school staff have supported this view in the past and from the information provided to me to date I have no reason to believe that this has changed in any way.”

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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial



A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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‘We don’t want it’: councillors object to HGV tanker park plans



PEMBROKE DOCK town councillors have objected strongly to plans to build a HGV tanker park in the town.

The tanker park would be located on the south-western side of Criterion Way, behind the ASDA petrol station.

However, at a meeting of the town council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, April 13, councillors were in agreement that it would create more problems for the town.

Councillor Jonathan George said: “I’ve noted the public input on this and they don’t seem very happy about where it’s going to be put.

“It is close to a small park area and I don’t think it’s suitable to put this here. I won’t be supporting this.”

Cllr George Manning added: “There are many aspects of this which are totally inappropriate for Pembroke Dock. There are many other sites available but they haven’t looked at any of them.

“This does not do anything for the Future Generations act and it will bring more disruption to the town.

“This does not bring about any improvements to the existing transport infrastructure. There are lots of things about this, we don’t want it. I don’t think they have looked into it in enough detail.”

Cllr Gordon Goff said that the impact it would have on the public and wildlife would be ‘astronomical’.

He went on to say he was not happy with one of the statements in the application and said they ‘don’t want to be blackmailed’.

One of the documents submitted with the application states that if the development was not approved it would mean that the applicants, Certas, ‘will either have to find a different site’ or ‘will have to cease operating in the area’.

Cllr Terry Judkins said that the Port Authority wanted to ‘use Pembroke Dock as a dumping ground’ and added that he could not support it.

Cllr Maureen Colgan added that she was ‘totally against’ the application and said that the area should be kept for leisure and be developed as an area where people can sit and enjoy themselves.

The application is due to be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council at a later date.

Cllr Paul Dowson has already called in the application for it to be debated by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

In his request he states that it is too near habitation, it is within the Pembroke Dock conservation area and that children have been using the area near the bandstand as play area for over 20 years.

The area had also previously been the subject of an application for a marina and other leisure facilities but that investment was written off in 2017.

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court



A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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