HERE’S SOME GOOD NEWS! Things seem to be looking up for Llanfyllin High School (LHS), the educational centre of our area and the heart of our local community. Chronicle readers will recall the long battle we fought against Powys County Council (PCC) in 2016 when we tried in every possible way to force them to allow our school to continue subsidising out-of-catchment transport for children who wanted to come to Llanfyllin – the children who for the last twenty years had benefited LHS – and PCC – and had given us the numbers that had helped make our school so successful. What was the result? The ‘fine’ imposed on the school was scrapped and we got a two year extension of the school transport subsidy, but our local County Councillor LHS Governors were humiliated and suspended and – crucially – we failed to get PCC to change their damaging transport policy. As a result our school has been reduced and we have lost children and teachers – a very heavy blow.
Last Year’s Report
But that was then and now things are looking different. In our Chronicle End of Year Report on LHS in September last year, we reminded readers that
“…a lot of things may change. For instance, although we have enemies at County Hall – especially the PCC Cabinet – we have friends elsewhere…..power may change to our advantage at Llandrindod or at the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff. It’s happened before: back in 2012 when Myfanwy Alexander from Llanfair became PCC Education Portfolio Holder and put a dramatic end to the last round of absurd ‘modernisation’…..there are PCC elections next year and we might manage to get rid of those Cabinet members who are most opposed to us….”
This Year’s Report
Well, nearly a year has passed, the PCC elections have taken place and things certainly have changed at Llandrindod. Cabinet Leader Barry Thomas and Deputy Leader/Head of Finance Wynne Jones have gone and been replaced by Rosemarie Harris and Aled Davies. Aled is our Tanat Valley Cty Cllr and one of our suspended LHS governors. Arwel Jones has gone as Education Portfolio Holder and been replaced by…..Myfanwy Alexander! This is the same Myfanwy who helped us in 2012, who was forced out of the Cabinet by the last administration and in June last year was banned from being a governor at any Powys school! PCC Chief Executive Jeremy Patterson – forced last year to apologise for his comments about Llanfyllin – is still there but he has given up his additional role of Director of Education and we will shortly have Ian Budd from Flintshire – someone who appears to have real knowledge of education.
The Turn of the Tide
Nowhere is this turning of the tide better shown than in last month’s report by the Welsh Ombudsman into the complaint made against some of our school Governors by Clive Pinney, the Legal Head of PCC, on behalf of the – former – Cabinet. They claimed that our Cty Cllr Governors – Peter Lewis, Aled Davies, Gwynfor Thomas and Darren Mayor – had connived at the breaching by LHS of PCC Transport Policy. This was the Ombudsman’s conclusion:
“I am satisfied that the governors…were acting in the genuinely held belief that the Council [PCC] either knew what was going on, or should have known from the School’s annual budgets and the PwC [PricewaterhouseCoopers] Report, and was taking no action. The School made no attempt to conceal what it was doing in its annual budgets, etc. As such, I can understand why the governors…reached the view (rightly or wrongly) that the Council was endorsing what the school was doing. Given that I have found that the governors were acting in good faith on the basis of the information available to them, I have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that [the governors] breached…the Code [of Conduct].
So finally our Governors and our school have been exonerated. Llanfyllin Cty Cllr Peter Lewis has added these comments:
“This is fantastic but not unexpected news from the Ombudsman. This vindicates myself and my fellow Councillors but not just us but the School Governors. It wholly restores the integrity of Llanfyllin High School which has been so damaged by this controversy. It shows that the previous Cabinet decisions were very flawed, made worse by the waste of tax payers money on not one but two investigations by the barrister Jonathan Walters. The Ombudsman said in his report that we did everything in the best interest of the school. I am also very concerned with the email I have which shows that Mr Clive Pinney and the then Leader Cllr Barry Thomas interfered with the independent investigation by controlling who the barrister Jonathan Walters was allowed and not allowed to interview. This shows the unfair and biased way the matter has been dealt with by PCC. As I have said all along the Council knew what was going on, and the Ombudsman states this in his report. I am very annoyed that the Council reported us Councillors and has taken so long to clear our names and at the same time it has come to light that other Schools were not compliant…I wonder will the Cabinet treat the LEA Governors the same as we were. This whole matter has caused great distress…It has been intolerable.” And Peter concludes: “I will be requesting a meeting with the Portfolio Holder for education Cllr Myfanwy Alexander to urge her to review Home to School Transport Policy.”
Good News at Last!
A year ago we were looking back on a dismal period of wastefully expensive PCC ‘consultations’. We had threatening reports and threatening investigations. We had an anxious community, especially parents, children, teachers and governors. We had angry meetings, petitions, demonstrations….. But now the future is looking a lot brighter. We have a new Headteacher at LHS. At County Hall we have some friends where before we had some powerful opponents. There are plenty of threats still but we can look forward with some confidence. GOOD NEWS AT LAST!
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