Cardiff council has installed an interim executive board in a failing primary school in order to turn it around.
The replacement of St Alban’s RC primary school’s governors with an executive board yesterday is the first time this measure has been used in Wales.
The troubled Tremorfa school was put under special measures in November after Estyn inspectors uncovered “systemic failures” at all levels of leadership and management over a three-year period.
Wales’ education watchdog deemed St Alban’s current performance and prospects for improvement “unsatisfactory”.
A campaign by parents to resolve issues at the school has been ongoing since a disciplinary investigation into staff matters was first launched in 2009.
The school’s headteacher Jane Vaterlaws and her deputy are currently suspended and the investigation surrounding this is ongoing.
Vaughan Gething, AM for Cardiff South and Penarth, criticised the council and archdiocese for not intervening sooner to help the failing primary school.
Council cabinet member for education Freda Salway attacked Mr Gething’s criticism. She said: “He is totally incorrect and he should make one hundred per cent certain of his facts before he gets his mouth into gear.
“Quite a number of steps were taken in order to get things back in order over at the school. He says the council lacked the will and that is totally incorrect.
“The two Labour councillors who represent the ward reported to the chief schools officer but never once, not once in two years, did they come to me the portfolio holder.
“They are implying that nothing was done. Now I am telling you that steps were taken to alleviate what was going on over there. You can tell an election is coming because that is what this is all about.”
But speaking at a meeting about the troubled Tremorfa faith school last night, Cardiff council director for social services Nick Jarman spoke out against the council’s past record. He said: “I don’t think this was handled well in the beginning. This is the first time we have used these powers in Wales. If it would have been me I would have taken these steps a lot earlier.”
In response to Coun Salway’s statement, Mr Gething said he did not face an election for another four years and the cabinet education minister only needed to listen to the aggrieved parents to know this is not a political matter.
Labour councillor for Splott, Clarissa Holland, said the council and Coun Salway were well aware of the serious concerns parents at the school had in early 2009. She said an email was sent out on July 7 2009 by Chris Jones, chief schools officer of Cardiff council, to the local councillors, Coun Salway and other council officials.
Coun Holland said Mr Jones’ email said: “You may be aware of growing concerns around some issues at St Alban’s RC School. The situation is serious and I believe that it is necessary to brief you, as I know that there has been some representation to you from the community.”
Schools director for the Archdiocese of Cardiff Anne Robertson was also in attendance at last night’s meeting. When asked by an angry parent how the archdiocese was going to rebuild the trust of the parents after three years of failure, she replied: “I cannot come to you now with a plan saying how that is exactly going to happen.”