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School safety summit to be held after Ammanford stabbings

A SAFETY summit bringing together education chiefs from across Gwent is to be held after the school stabbings in Ammanford. 

Two teachers and a pupil were injured at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Carmarthenshire, on Wednesday, April 24, and a 13-year-old girl has appeared before magistrates charged with three counts of attempted murder. 

The large comprehensive was placed in lockdown – with no one supposed to leave or enter the school – for around four hours as police and emergency services responded and worried parents gathered at the school gates. 

Andrew Powles, Torfaen Borough Council’s director of education, told councillors the authority will hold a regional meeting to look at lockdown arrangements. 

He said: “In two weeks time Torfaen is hosting a regional directors meeting and will review lockdown procedures and how we respond, I think that’s timely.” 

He was responding, at an education scrutiny committee meeting, to Labour councillor for Cwmbran, Two Locks Colette Thomas who asked if the council is reviewing school security “in light of the incident in West Wales”. 

She also asked if costs for enhanced security measures could be claimed back, but Mr Powles said he wasn’t aware of any way of doing that. 

John Tushingham, the council’s head of resources and planning, said in response to Cllr Thomas “thankfully we’ve not had anything like that” but acknowledged such an incident can happen anywhere. 

He said there was a review of “potential vulnerabilities” last year and new anti-terror legislation, known as Martin’s Law, which requires a risk assessment of terror risk in public buildings, had also been considered. 

The most common issues at Torfaen schools, said Mr Tushingham, are with perimeter fencing and when issues are identified they are put on an annual maintenance list. 

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But he warned that doesn’t mean work will be undertaken straight away as jobs are done on a priority basis within a budget of around £400,000. 

“The work is done on a priority list until the money is spent and it may be a number of years before we get some of those issues addressed,” he said. 

Headteachers and governors have responsibilities for spotting and reporting maintenance issues, some of which the school will be responsible for funding the repair of.  

Mr Powles said inspectors Estyn will also raise any concerns with the local education authority, which it has done in relation to the strength of internal security doors and paint flaking.  

The committee was also told the council works with schools to fix issues they raise such as door entry systems, which could be raising the heigh of release buttons, and Mr Tushingham said he is currently looking to repair doors that use a magnetic lock as a pupil has “found a way to break that”. 

Committee chair, Fairwater councillor Rose Seabourne, said she was concerned volunteer governors may not know what health and safety issues to look our for and that Estyn will only a visit a school around once every five years.

Mr Tushingham said “probably a governor’s most important role for health and safety is, if in doubt ask. There is a body of people ready to help.”

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