Sunday, February 25, 2007

What's going on at Powys County Council

While I was away on a break last week, it emerged that Powys County Council has been employing staff, who have contact with children, who haven't been through the proper criminal record checks. I imagine that the Council was more shocked than anyone to discover this. This should never happen of course - but I'm more concerned about the Council's reaction. There shouldn't be any questions to ask a week later - but there are.

The Council may have discovered the problem itself - but why was the information kept secret? I'm told that the matter was brought to public attention by a 'leak'- when it should have been via a Public Statement by the Council Leader. I'm also told that there is a massive 'molehunt' going on within the Council to find out who 'leaked' this information. The 'whistleblower' deserves our grateful thanks. The only response should have been full public disclosure. There should not have been a whistle to blow.

I note from the BBC website that the problem is mainly with peripetetic teachers. The obvious question to be asked is how many of these teachers have been involved in 'one to one' unsupervised lessons? Is the Council going to interview all pupils (and their parents) who may have been in this position?

And then there is the position of school governors, who I underestand should also be subject to some form of checks. I have already been told by two school governors this afternoon that they have not been subject to any checks whatsoever. How common is this? At the very least, this shows a rather casual approach towards the potential for giving unsuitable individuals access to our schools.

I also read that the Minister, Jane Davidson has been vocal in her condemnation. I wonder whether she has contacted all Councils to seek reassurances about compliance with requirements for checks, both with staff and with school governors. Or has she left it to the WLGA? I will contact her office tomorrow to ensure that this issue is being taken as seriously as it should be.

10 comments:

Karen Roberts said...

There is no requirement for Governors to be Police checked. The reasoning behind this presumably being that Governors deal with issues of school management and are not put in a position where they are supervising children.

Glyn Davies AM said...

Thanks Karen - but I'm not sure about this. Over recent years Governors and parents have been encouraged to take a bigger part in school activities. At least, that is what I'm being told. I still intend to follow this up with formal Written Questions.

Karen Roberts said...

I'm with you on that. I think they should - be good to know Ms Davidson's opinion. I have been a Governor at Primary and Secondary level for years and always believe in getting involved fully in what is happening in my schools.

I think it is unacceptable that we shouldn't be police checked.

Alison said...

Peripatetic teachers generally teach "special needs" for the want of a better phrase.

It is well documented that disabled children are more likely to be abused than able bodied children. This threshold increases dramatically where a child has communication difficulties, because the abuser thinks they can get away with it, coupled with the fact that a child may not have the language to explain. And yes, such children exist in Powys, I grew up around them.

The fact this affects a group who are more likely to be abused in the first place, makes Powys' lack of action even more negligent.

Glyn Davies AM said...

I agree Alison - which is why I believe that we need a more detailed statement from the Council. I don't want any sort of witch hunt but the only way to start rebuilding confidence in the Council is if we are told the full story. I hope that I can find a way of raising the issue with the Minister in public this week

Anonymous said...

If you read today's Guardian front page you will see that it isn't just an issue for Powys.

lads said...

Sadly Glyn the culture of secrecy at Powys County Council is deeply rooted. You shouldn't have been surprised at the reaction - it's typical. Some of us believe that only a "change of government" at Powys after next year's elections can make any difference.

Anonymous said...

How can you change the government in a council where so many seats are uncontested. Powys council seems more like 18th century Welsh politics where the landed gentry would decide amongst themselves who should represent an area. It seem sthat in Powys the name of the game is to avoid elections as far as possible.

Glyn Davies AM said...

The only way that there will be significant change in local government is if it becomes party political. Independents are often elected for life, irrespective of performance. Proportional representation in local government would fundamentaly change the make-up of councils - but I could never support such a change unless a majority of voters in the area backed it in a referendum.

Anonymous said...

Powys County Council is a disgrace. The way its social services has been run for years is a disgrace. There is no leadership of any sort and the sooner the Assembly take over the social services section the better. Keep on digging to find a lot more dirt