Monday, 3 August 2015

Latest News on Gwernyfed School

Here's the text of a letter that has been sent to Cllr Barry Thomas by John Fitzgerald, of the campaign to save Gwernyfed School from closure:

"30 July 2015
Dear Cllr Thomas
Re Gwernyfed High School
Given that you have withdrawn your plan to close Gwernyfed High School in the face of overwhelming legal evidence showing that you have acted unlawfully, and a strong warning from the Welsh Government that you should fulfil your legal obligations before attempting to re-submit your funding application, you should not be surprised that your actions have provoked anger amongst people connected with Gwernyfed HS, caused distress, to students, parents, staff, community groups involved with the school (there are 34) as well threatening to tear the heart out of our communities in the Gwernyfed catchment area.
The result is a complete break in trust between the local authority and everyone connected with Gwernyfed High School; so much so that as things stand at present no one in the catchment area will believe in future anything said by anyone from Powys County Council. That is a dreadful state of affairs that you (and your colleagues) should be ashamed of. The answer to the question is there any way back has to be dealt with before any progress can be made? Well it depends on you and your next actions, but it would a waste of time you proposing anything unless you carry out the following actions:
• As early as possible in the new term (and certainly before the meeting the authority has called with secondary schools on 30 September to discuss post 16 care) you call a public meeting to be held at Gwernyfed HS which anyone connected with the school can attend at a time that would be convenient for, students, parents, staff and community groups.
• Attendance from the local authority must include, yourself, the portfolio holder for education, the CEO and the most senior officer with responsibility for educational management.
• The meeting must start with a full and unequivocal apology from you for the appalling, unlawful behaviour of the local authority towards all connected with the Gwernyfed HS.
• One of your number must make a statement (confirmed in writing and given to the head teacher and chair of governors at the meeting) making clear that discussion about the future of Gwernyfed HS will not only be about closure but include a genuine consideration of all the real options. This means consulting BEFORE designing a plan to obtain information on other valid proposals that are available, not the other way round, unless of course you want to run into more legal action.
• One of your number will give an undertaking to assist Gwernyfed HS and propose tangible help to repair the damage caused by the local authority’s action so that parents can have certainty about their child’s educational future. When the cabinet in 2011 tried a similar stunt it had to back track when it was pointed out none of the costings made sense. However, the school which had been increasing year on year the number on roll suddenly found, because of uncertainty, parents’ were voting with their feet. It’s looking as though the same is going to happen again as a result of your decision. This tells you and us that falling rolls are not a product of falling birth rates but irresponsible decision making by the local authority. Coupled with this will be an assurance that there will be no attempts to intimidate, harass or bully anyone connected with Gwernyfed into a particular decision.
We understand there is a need to go on developing the quality of education across Powys but unless you comply with the above you have no hope of cooperation or support for any plan you bring forward. Put another way you created the problem you find yourself in, you have to clear it up before you and we can move on.
You have some major problems within your authority, not least the dual role of the CEO as both the statutory Director of Education and ultimately having responsibility for Powys County Council’s legal services. How on earth was a plan approved by cabinet that was just a political wheeze to obtain funding to re-build Brecon HS and so full of educational and legal holes it should never have seen the light of day?
It had no educational merit, failing to reflect the Donaldson Report both commissioned and recommendations accepted by the Welsh Government or the recommendations by Dr Stevie Upton, published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs setting out how to use successful schools, like Gwenyfed HS, to help those schools that are failing. Had you implemented any of those recommendations that would have been transformational and negated the need to sacrifice Gwernyfed HS on the altar of rescuing Brecon HS.
Given the legal holes in the proposal that went to cabinet were beyond belief and yet it contained a statement saying there were no legal matters requiring consideration. You did not have to be a lawyer to realise that it contained a clutch of matters that would lead to a series of judicial reviews and incidentally are still pertinent.
There are plenty of local people with expertise who could help sort out the mess you are in but not if Powys CC cannot fulfil the requirements listed above and start to cooperate with those who have an interest in the future of the school.
Lastly if I was connected to Brecon High School I would be asking for a similar meeting because you have badly let down a school in desperate need of help to develop a very different future.
Yours sincerely"

Anyone who agrees with this letter is encouraged to contact Cllr Thomas on or the Education Portfolio Holder on

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