Education chief retiring from Pembrokeshire council

Pembrokeshire council offices in Haverfordwest Inspectors say there has been slow progress at Pembrokeshire council

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An education director is retiring from his job at an under-fire council which has been criticised for its handling of child abuse allegations.

Graham Longster said his position at Pembrokeshire council had become untenable, it has been reported.

The authority has been accused of failures in child safeguarding.

There have been claims that children were locked in a padded "time-out" room at a pupil referral unit.

In a statement the council said Mr Longster, director of education and children's services, had "indicated his intention to retire" on 31 December.

Timeline

  • June 2009: Complaint made about children being locked in a padded time-out room, with no natural light or ventilation, at the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Neyland.
  • August 2011: Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) criticises management of child abuse allegations. Council and Dyfed-Powys Police were asked to review 25 cases and report findings of alleged professional abuse between 2007 and 2011.
  • Schools inspectorate Estyn says policies for safeguarding children are "not fit for purpose".
  • September 2011: Welsh government ministers send a panel of experts into the council, after issuing the authority with a final warning.
  • November 2011: A report from five inspectorates reveals a "lack of strategic leadership" over child protection.
  • June 2012: Ministers warn progress is "worryingly slow" and that they have "grave concerns" about the authority. But the council leader says "significant steps" have been taken by officials and schools staff. New information about the controversy is passed to the police. Further details of allegations emerge, including a pupil's hands being tied by a teacher and a padded room at a primary school.
  • July 2012: Council leader makes a public apology to pupils who were put into a padded "time-out" room at referral unit. The children's commissioner says he has a "cast-iron assurance" the room would never be used again.

"The county council will be putting in place appropriate arrangements to cover the director's responsibilities in due course," said the statement.

The Welsh government sent in a board of experts to oversee the council's safeguarding procedures after highly critical reports last year.

A spokesperson said Mr Longster's decision to retire was a matter for him and the council.

In a letter to the leader of the council in June, ministers highlighted concerns about incidents in the county.

They included allegations about a child's hands being tied behind his back by a teacher at an infants school in March this year.

Their letter said the director of education did not step in when the school failed to take appropriate action until he was urged to do so by the ministerial board five days later.

Last month inspectors said there had been "slow progress" in improving key aspects of the way abuse allegations were dealt with.

A Welsh government spokesperson said on Wednesday the inspectors would continue to support the authority to help it address the concerns.

The Western Telegraph reported that Mr Longster emailed colleagues about his retirement, saying his "position has become increasingly untenable in recent months" and that he was "perceived externally to be part of the problem relating to safeguarding".

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