EDUCATION CRISIS: Call for resignations over damning Monmouthshire report
OPPOSITION councillors in Monmouthshire are calling for its cabinet member for education to resign after the publication of yesterday's damning Estyn report.
Labour councillors Roger Harris, Armand Watts and Dimitri Batrouni and independent councillors Simon Howarth and Debby Blakebrough say Cllr Liz Hacket Pain has failed pupils in the county by allowing the authority to fall into special measures after its education department was judged "unsatisfactory".
Labour leader Cllr Harris described the report as a "tragedy" for the county's children.
He said: "Whatever gloss Peter Fox puts on it it's a total tragedy for the pupils and in particular the teachers and head teachers we have failed. It can't be argued."
"We hope Liz Hacket Pain will do the honourable thing and resign, failing that we will certainly ask for her resignation."
Cllr Watts said: "I think it is really quite a depressing day for Monmouthshire's children. We are very sad for the children of Monmouthshire and we think that Liz Hacket Pain has to go."
Cllr Blakebrough said many members saw this as a good report because steps can now be taken to make improvements.
She said: "It has lifted the veil of denial and complacency. It has put a spotlight on the urgent need for our schools to receive strategic leadership and management attention, support and challenge to nurture the potential of each and every child in Monmouthshire.
She said despite education being the authority's number one priority, the council's leadership and management has at best been "laissez faire" and at worst "disinterested and incompetent".
She said education in their hands over the past four to five years had resulted in Monmouthshire cruising at average and other members had been sounding alarm bells by asking questions around issues of performance, safeguarding and quality and questioning why, in a wealthy area like Monmouthshire, its schools were in the lowest bands three, four and five.
She added: "These concerns were dismissed and the warning signs ignored. There was no drive to seek excellence to ensure our schools aspired to the top bands of one and two."
Cllr Batrouni, who represents the St Christopher ward, said of the report: "It is a shocking state of affairs. The administration has shown complacency, they're trying to wash over it and paint it in a positive light and I don't know how you can do that. We are in special measures - it is unacceptable. I think Liz Hacket Pain's position is untenable."
Independent group leader Cllr Simon Howarth, whose twin boys attend the authority's worst performing school, King Henry VIII Comprehensive, said he was "upset" and "angry" but said opposition councillors had been warning this was coming for months.
He said chief executive Paul Matthews had to take some responsibility for the failings and said all parties had to work together to provide the best they could for the county's children.
Cllr Hacket Pain told the Argus on Tuesday she would not step down and, along with council leader Peter Fox, would see the authority through this tough time.
Monmouth Assembly member Nick Ramsay said he was suspicious of Estyn's criteria, which marks achievements against the uptake of free school meals.
He said this means Monmouthshire, which has only a 10 per cent uptake, has do do so much better than other authorities which have a higher percentage.