A few weeks ago, I was reliably informed about a growing crisis at a Bridgend school.
The school in question has apparently had problems for several years, but whenever difficult questions are asked things miraculously improve â€“ the problems go away and nobody wants to talk about it. Itâ€™s gotten to a point where itâ€™s difficult, if not impossible, to keep a lid on it anymore.
I canâ€™t name the school because while thereâ€™s no reason to doubt my sources, I havenâ€™t been able to independently verify what theyâ€™ve told me and some of the allegations are so serious itâ€™ll need to be left to professional journalists to investigate.
What I probably can say is that it involves an English-medium primary school in the Valleys.
Consider this a heads up to those involved that this is becoming public knowledge â€“ itâ€™s starting to leak and cause a stink.
Estynâ€™s last school inspection resulted in a less than glowing review, but Estynâ€™s criticisms are usually couched in professional language. Some of the specifics Iâ€™ve been told by my sources include:
- The management of the school is â€œloopyâ€� and said to be â€œlike a zooâ€�; five advisers from the Central South education consortium (a regional body tasked with school improvement) have quit because theyâ€™ve found it hard to work there.
- The school is being investigated for possible data protection breaches after a teacher was falsely accused of assault.
- Estyn found that not a single teacher had up-to-date child protection training.
- A teaching union has supposedly requested the school be placed into special measures in order to protect staff. The deputy headteacher has apparently already resigned and the union have discussed strike action.
- One of the more serious allegations hints at a possible white collar crime involving a charitable fund (though this was a while ago).
Iâ€™ve been given a copy of the â€œred noticeâ€�/final warning the school was recently issued by Bridgend Council by a reliable source. It outlines the timescales required for improvements, as well as some of the concerns which at least partly corroborates what Iâ€™ve been told.
Stating quite bluntly that thereâ€™s â€œbeen a breakdown in how the school is managed or governedâ€�, the letter orders that from now on the school reports weekly to Bridgend Council on its progress.
Unless noticeable improvements are made by December 2018, the governors (and possibly the headteacher) could be sacked and the school will be placed into special measures by the Welsh Government. Two of the governors are serving Bridgend county councillors.
Senior councillors and local (national) politicians are aware of whatâ€™s happening. Behind the scenes, the teaching union are said to be â€œup in armsâ€�.
If you live in the Valleys and believe this sounds a bit too familiar â€“ start asking around. I donâ€™t like doing this without hard evidence, but if it lights a fire under those involved and leads to urgent improvements it will have been worth it.