Child protection: Pembrokeshire council's final warning
Published: 12th Jun 2012 14:36:10
A final warning has been given to a council accused of failing in its duty to safeguard children.
The Welsh government sent a board into Pembrokeshire last year following two highly critical reports, one of which identified problems in protecting children from abuse.
There are claims of children being locked in rooms and of one's hands being tied by a teacher.
Ministers say they will force the council to comply if necessary.
In a letter to Jamie Adams, the council's independent leader, they said they still have "grave concerns" about the authority.
The letter says despite an initial investigation and police recommendations, no disciplinary investigation has been carried out into complaints about a small padded "time out room" at a unit for children with special educational needs and behaviour problems.
A complaint was made in June 2009 about children being locked in the room, which had no natural light or ventilation, at the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Neyland.
We have waited long enough and we are not prepared to give another warning”
Ministers want to know why no inquiry has been conducted by the council three years later.
When reports about it emerged the council said there was nothing similar at other schools in the county.
But the ministerial board has discovered a "very similar padded room" at a primary school elsewhere in the county.
This school also had two other windowless rooms in which children were routinely locked, the letter says.
Ministers say they have since heard about at least five rooms in which children were locked "and there may be several more".
The board, led by retired judge Graham Jones, has learned of at least 18 further rooms which were apparently being used for "time out" purposes in Pembrokeshire's schools.
Separate allegations were made in March about a teacher at Meads Infant School in Milford Haven tying a pupil's hands behind his back.
The board was only told about the allegations the night before they were reported in the press and the director of education did not step in until the board urged him to do so five days later.
In a joint statement, Education Minister Leighton Andrews and Deputy Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas said: "We have waited long enough and we are not prepared to give another warning.
"We will issue another statement when we have considered the leader's response and have determined our course of action."
Shadow education minister Angela Burns, the Conservative AM for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said there needed to be "strong guidance" on the use of time out rooms.
She said: "Having seen the timeout room at the PRU in Pembrokeshire and heard evidence from children about other schools I fail to see how the use of a time out room can be deemed appropriate in this day and age."
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Child protection: Pembrokeshire council's final warning. [Online] (Updated 12 Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/1434100-Child-protection-Pembrokeshire-councils-final-warning [Accessed 10th May 2013]
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