Controversial Llanfyllin report after whistleblower's allegations

Reporter:

Owain Farrington

A REPORT into whistleblowing allegations at Llanfyllin High School – branded as “biased” and “unfair” – has been accepted by Powys County Council’s (PCC) cabinet.

In October 2016, PCC received a written complaint about the governance of the school.

In November Jonathan Walters was appointed by PCC and the governing body to conduct an investigation.

The report was circulated on Friday, February 3, with certain names and identifying particulars blocked out.

In the report, Mr Walters claims the school was in “complete turmoil” in late 2015 and early 2016. 

He added: “I understand the school is now very close to being in special measures.”

The school was deemed “adequate” in its 2016 Estyn report, with the number  of pupils gaining five A*-A grades at GCSE, above the family average.

Mr Walters’ report makes 11 recommendations, including: a committee be made to analyse academic results, the finance policy is made fit for purpose, actions maintain transparency and governors receive additional training.

County councillor Peter Lewis and Cllr Gwynfor Thomas were temporarily suspended as governors at the school while the investigation was underway.

“It is very biased towards the whistle blower,” said Cllr Lewis who was suspended for four months.

“We (suspended governors) haven’t been interviewed. This report should have been thrown out.

“There is another report to come on the delegated budget. How many times do we have to come here to protect the school?”

Cllr Thomas was suspended for a month though he was not a governor when the suspension was imposed.

He said: “I am quite surprised this report is here today.

“It has given us one working day to consider.

“I do question whether this report should have come out without challenge. I have not been interviewed and some information is relevant to when I was not suspended.

“We are experienced governors and we should have been asked to contribute to this report. It is clear to have a grasp of the whole situation we would need to see that other report as well.

“I am questioning why Jonathan Walters was brought in to do this report.”

Cllr Thomas said that Mr Walters would have pre-conceived ideas of the school from a previous investigation he conducted.

Clive Pinney, the council solicitor, said the governors of the school chose Jonathan Walters to conduct the report when they were approached on December 5, 2016.

Cllr Thomas added: “I think it is detrimental to the school.

“This report gives the school another kicking.”

Also outspoken on the report was Cllr Aled Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the council.

He said: “The recommendation is so unfair on Darren (Mayor). He was in school before Christmas making sure everything was in place for his sabbatical.

“Jonathan Walters should be ashamed of himself. The conversation should have been held between governors before this appeared on a cabinet report.

“The vice chair was upset her comments would be added to a cabinet report. She feels she was misled, she is deeply upset by the process that has taken place.”

Defending the process behind the report, Mr Pinney said: “The report was sent to the chair and vice chair on Wednesday last week. I think the process is fine.”

Breaking through the rhetoric, cabinet members saw the recommendations as positive moves for the school.

Cllr Stephen Hayes said: “I do not think the school has anything to fear from the recommendations.”

Echoing this, Cllr Graham Brown added: “There is nothing to fear. It is just about moving forward.”

Mr Pinney said: “At the end of the day, it is for the children that we need to get things right.”

The cabinet approved recommendations where the Cabinet member for Education may appoint up to three more governors to the school.

The school governing body and head of school services must also provide written action plans addressing relevant recommendations from Mr Walters’ report within 28 days.

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