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Caldicot School warning letter shouldn’t have been revealed

A general view of Caldicot School (Pic: LDRS)

A WARNING letter sent to a school shouldn’t have been “blurted out” in a meeting, a top councillor has said. 

Councillor Martyn Groucutt, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for education, said it was wrong for the letter sent to Caldicot School to have been revealed during a routine question at a council scrutiny committee. 

After Conservative councillor Paul Pavia summarised concerns raised in the official warning notice the chief officer for children and young people, Will McLean, hit back saying he was “frustrated” the letter “that had remained confidential between myself and the governing body” was raised in public. 

It outlined concerns regarding provision for pupils with additional learning needs at the school which hosts one of the county’s two Specialist Resource Bases for comprehensive age pupils. 

“I was aware, as the cabinet member. Will had told me he was sending the letter I didn’t know exactly what it contents were but obviously it wasn’t sent out of the blue. I was aware of the disquiet and shared the disquiet,” said the Labour councillor, who was sat in the meeting during the tense exchange. 

Paul Pavia is the Welsh Conservative councillor for Chepstow Mount Pleasant ward on Monmouthshire County Council (Pic: MCC)

The performance and overview committee was considering a report on the five resource bases which acknowledged “a lack of consistency” between sites but didn’t specify any specific concerns at any named school. 

Visits to the bases were made from March to May, last year, and Cllr Pavia asked if the concerns the council raised in the letter Mr McLean sent last month had emerged in the last year or over a longer period. 

But Cllr Groucutt criticised the way the Chepstow Mount Pleasant councillor revealed the letter, and defended the chief officer’s response. 

Cllr Martyn Groucutt is Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for education and Labour councillor for Lansdown, Abergavenny

“Paul Pavia should have known better. He was my predecessor as cabinet member for education up until the last county council elections and Will would have been working as closely with Cllr Pavia as he does with me now. 

“It’s why I think Will must have felt terribly upset yesterday that somebody he would have shared quite a few confidences with over the years just blurted out something like that.” 

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The Abergavenny Landsdown councillor said it has to be possible for the director of education and chair of governors to speak openly with each other in confidence, and it was likely to be a matter for the governing body about how much information it wished to share when in receipt of such a letter. 

He said the council has been addressing issues at the school since last year when teaching unions, that have staged strike action, claimed its leadership has failed to address physical and verbal abuse towards teachers. 

Cllr Groucutt said the council held an internal audit ahead of sending the letter so it was sure of the concerns it was raising. 

He also said he didn’t want parents to lose confidence in Caldicot School: “We are not being secretive but we don’t want parents to think they’re sending their children to school where nothing’s any good. Whenever we’ve been to the school we don’t get the feel it is in crisis, the kids are learning and are polite and that’s part of the problem as it differs significantly from what the teaching unions are saying.” 

Headteacher Steven Grech has returned to school after it was reported he was absent, at the end of October last year, shortly before the NASUWT and NEU unions called off a further day of strike action.