Newport school says sorry for gypsy remarks
5:23pm Thursday 6th February 2014 in News
A SCHOOL governing body which claimed that a proposed gypsy site nearby could damage behaviour and attendance has apologised for the statement.
Llanwern High School’s governors had objected to the proposed site at Hartridge Farm Road, suggesting pupil safety could be at risk if an animal came loose.
But the group has now retracted comments in the planning submission, saying some of them are factually inaccurate and inappropriate.
The comments, made by the governing body as part of the Newport council local development plan process, suggested the large size of the site could cause “costly damage to the new Llanwern High in terms of physical damage, reputation and image of the school.”
It adds that there could be an impact “on attendance, behaviour and attainment measures” at the school.
The governing body said such communal sites are “likely to promote conflict” within gypsy families, and said it was “well known that many traveller families keep a stock of dogs, ponies and horses”.
“There are many well documented examples of these animals escaping their confines,” the submission claims.
“An animal of this nature running out and wandering through the Llanwern High School site will undoubtedly cause issues for pupils, staff and visitor safety.”
It also said the access road to the site required extensive and costly refurbishment to bring it up to a safe standard.
The Traveller Movement campaign group wrote to the school saying the submission was discriminatory, “inappropriate and worrying given the need for schools to be inclusive”.
A letter from the governors’ chairman Ann Lewis, released by campaigners, dissociated the body from the observation the site could impact the school’s reputation, image, behaviour, attainment and attendance, saying there was no evidence to support it.
However, the letter said there were more suitable sites that better meet the needs of gypsy and traveller families.
A spokesman for the Traveller Movement said: “How would a gipsy or traveller pupil at the school feel about the school’s claim that gypsies and travellers are bound to cause problems by letting their animals wander around on the road?
“The site is intended for Newport gypsy families and as far as we are aware they do not even keep any livestock or horses.“
A statement from the governing body said: “We recognise that our response to the public consultation contained comments that were not factually accurate and we acknowledge the inappropriateness of their inclusion.
“The governing body has retracted these and apologises unreservedly for any offence that may unintentionally have been caused.”