Schools ombudsman call to settle rows with governors

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Media captionLong-running rows can distract schools from improving, it is claimed

Disputes between schools and their governors should be settled by an independent ombudsman, it is claimed.

Long-running rows can distract schools from improving standards, according to Brian Mawby, a former head of education in Blaenau Gwent.

Plaid Cymru AM Jocelyn Davies said she had urged the Welsh government to take action over "paralysing" disputes.

But it rejected the idea of an ombudsman and said local education authorities had the power to intervene.

School governors are appointed to hold head teachers to account and are often in charge of setting targets.

But Mr Mawby said in some cases governors were spending months - sometimes years - in disputes with head teachers, and claimed it could distract schools from improving standards.

"Unfortunately it seems to me to be on the increase at the moment, certainly in terms of the delays between a dispute being recorded and being resolved," said Mr Mawby, who is a councillor and cabinet member for children and young people at Torfaen Council.

'Governance issue'

In Gwynedd, a dispute over the suspension of head teacher Eifion Jones from Ysgol Brynrefail, Llanrug, led to the resignation of the chair of governors when the council ruled Mr Jones could return to work.

In Blaenau Gwent, Nigel Copner said he was suspended from his role as chair of governors at Glyncoed primary school, Ebbw Vale, after challenging its head teacher to set more ambitious targets for pupils.

"It's now nearly a year since a formal grievance was brought against me - it should have been settled within weeks," said Mr Copner.

"If there was an education ombudsman they could come in within days and sort out an issue in the interests of the school and its children."

Blaenau Gwent council confirmed that there was "an ongoing governance issue" at Glyncoed Primary School, but said it had no concern about the role of the head teacher or the safety and wellbeing of its children.

Power to intervene

Jocelyn Davies, Plaid Cymru AM for south east Wales, said such disputes were distracting for schools and called on ministers to consider the idea of an ombudsman.

"What we find is there's a paralysing of the governing body, factions may develop and there doesn't seem to be any way of resolving matters," she said.

"I feel that schools should be focussing on raising standards."

However, the Welsh government said it rejected the idea of creating an education ombudsman, saying "appropriate and proportionate systems" were already in place to deal with disputes.

"A local authority has the power to intervene in a school it maintains where there is a breakdown in the management and governance of that school," said a spokesperson.

"If the local authority fails to do so, or does so inadequately, then the Welsh ministers can intervene."

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