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Abuse allegations: ‘Complaints were ignored’

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Rhydgors

Rhydygors School now: Allegations cover 1976-86.

THE POLICE investigation into allegations of the physical and sexual abuse of children at Rhydygors and Cartref Y Gelli has come as no surprise to those who attended those institutions from 1976 to 1986.

In the period covered by the present investigation, Rhydygors acted as a residential special school intended to provide support to children with behavioural, social and emotional problems drawn from the former Dyfed LEA area. However, one former pupil, who cannot be named, told The Herald that allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the facility were rife over thirty years ago.

The former pupil told The Herald: “This is nothing new. This sort of thing [i.e. both physical and sexual abuse of children] was widely known to take place. Complaints were made at the time, but the way in which Rhydygors was used as a dumping ground for kids like us meant that our stories were ignored as just being made up stories.”

Dyfed Powys Police has released a statement in connection with the most recent investigation, named Operation Almond.

That statement reads: ‘Operation Almond is a Dyfed-Powys Police investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children at Rhydygors School in Carmarthen, during the years spanning 1976 to 1986’.

This operation focusses on allegations made in 2000, and also in 2012.

In relation to the 2000 allegations, these were fully investigated at the time and referred to the Crown Prosecution Service; however no criminal proceedings were instigated at that time.

In 2012, further allegations were made, which include a report of abuse at a care home, namely Cartref-y-Gelli in Carmarthen between 1986 and 1990.

It is important to note that all allegations made concern members of staff who no longer work at Rhydygors School, and Cartref-y-Gelli care home has been closed for a number of years.

Following an initial assessment of allegations received in 2012, and following consultation with the CPS, a new criminal investigation commenced with the remit to investigate all allegations made in 2012, and to also encompass previous allegations made.

Under Operation Almond, a dedicated team of specialist investigators has been set-up to ensure a thorough investigation is undertaken into the allegations made, and also to ensure that support is provided for the victims who have already been identified, which is currently in excess of 20.

Six people have been arrested as part of the investigation and interviews with other identified suspects are planned in due course. The investigation is on-going.

Dyfed Powys Police are working closely with partner agencies as part of this investigation and the safety, welfare and protection of vulnerable people remain an absolute priority of all the organisations involved.

The Herald asked Carmarthenshire County Council to provide the following information:

When the council first became aware of the Police Investigation which has led to 6 arrests, thus far;

  • What contact the council has had with the police in relation to both the current investigation and the previous investigation from 2000;
  • Whether the council’s insurers have provided advice to the council in relation to both the ongoing investigation and the 2000 investigation,
  • Whether any other allegations have been made to the council regarding child abuse at either Rhydygors or Cartref Y Gelli independently of the Police investigations detailed above investigations and, if so, whether the council’s insurers were involved in advising the council in relation to those independent allegations
  • The arrests made to date have been announced as being former members of staff at either Rhydygors or Cartref Y Gelli. Are any of those arrested currently employed by Carmarthenshire County Council?

A council statement said: “An investigation is being carried out by Dyfed Powys Police into allegations of abuse by previous members of staff at Rhydygors Special School between 1976 and 1986. The staff members concerned no longer work at Rhydygors School, and have not done so for some considerable time. Carmarthenshire County Council is working closely with Dyfed-Powys Police to fully investigate the allegations. As this is a legal matter, it is not possible to give any further information at this

 

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Education

Improving the behaviour of Carmarthenshire Secondary School pupils

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“IT’S almost uncool to want to learn as vaping and bad language is like the new thing”

“It’s very, very, heart-breaking to see a child vaping at age 11”

“I’m genuinely really scared for the generation coming through”

These are some of the comments Carmarthenshire pupils and teachers voice in a campaign which aims to improve behaviour in the authority’s Secondary Schools.

The campaign is a joint effort between the County Council and C.A.S.H – Carmarthenshire Association of Secondary Headteachers.

Across Wales, many teachers have shared experiences of witnessing a deterioration in some pupils’ behaviour since returning to formal education after covid lockdowns. Examples of such behaviour include using offensive language with classmates and teachers, being rude in lessons and vaping in toilets during lessons.

For the benefit of pupils and teachers, Carmarthenshire Council supports their Headteachers in their attempt to act to remedy the situation.

Pupils and teachers from ALL the County’s schools attended an experience-sharing session at the County Hall in July. A cross-section of comments was recorded and used to create a video that is part of the campaign. The video will be shown in all Carmarthenshire Secondary Schools in September and will be shared through social media. Information on the campaign posters and banners will direct pupils to sources where they can get further advice about the importance of improving behaviour.

On behalf of C.A.S.H, James Durbridge said: “As teachers, we understand that there are sometimes complex reasons behind pupils’ misbehaviour and, without a doubt, we want to support those pupils.

“But as the title of the campaign video explains – Our behaviour affects everyone and everything. A teacher cannot teach and a pupil cannot learn in a class when a minority behaves offensively and without respect.

“The behaviour of our pupils today influences their tomorrow.”

Noting that the campaign is an opportunity to press the reset button on behaviour and establish better habits, Councillor Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “Our aim in Carmarthenshire is to create young people who, after being educated here, create a life here and contribute to our community.

“Offering them the best possible guidance on how to behave in a way that gives them the best chance to succeed in life is our duty as an authority.”

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Education

Teacher drink-driving on way back from camping trip smelled ‘strongly of intoxicants’

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A TEACHER “stupidly stopped for a drink” on his way home from a family camping holiday before getting behind the wheel, a professional panel has heard. Huw Davies, a former English teacher at Ysgol Bro Teifi in Llandysul, Ceredigion, was more than three times above the legal alcohol limit for driving when he was stopped by police, a professional conduct committee has been told.

The Herald understands that the incident took place on the A40 St Clears to Carmarthen Road on July 30, 2021.

Witnesses were apparently called police after he pulled into a garage and appeared drunk with red eyes and dilated pupils, the Education Workforce Council (EWC) committee was told. Then the teacher came out of the garage. and went “all over the road”, EWC implementation officer Clare Hastie told the Fitness to Practice Committee.

He said police were alerted to a vehicle possibly being driven by a drunk driver on the A40 from St Clears to Carmarthen just before 3pm. Brother Teifi’s police eventually caught up with Davies at the Tesco car park in Carmarthen, where he was seen sitting in the vehicle with the keys in the ignition. When they opened the door, it smelled “strongly of intoxicants”.
breath tests showed he was more than three times the legal alcohol limit for driving and he was charged the next day.

Davies, who appeared at the September 2 virtual hearing, said he was ashamed of his actions and relieved that no one was hurt. But his actions have the “potential to put others at risk,” Hastie said. he told the panel.

The English teacher admitted he “stupidly” stopped for a drink on his way home from a camping holiday while the rest of his family returned separately. Davies told the committee that he has received help from Anonymous and the DDAS Adult Substance Abuse Service.

“I am very ashamed of what I did on July 30 and I am very happy that no one was harmed as a result of my actions,” he told the panel.

Davies described camping with his family in St Davids, Pembrokeshire before the incident.

The weather was rainy so he broke down the tent while the rest of the family left, he told the panel.

Ms Hastie said Davies began teaching English at Ysgol Bro Teifi in 2016 but has had spells of absence and left by mutual agreement with the official departure date at the end of the summer break of 31 August 2021.

Most recently he has been working as a substitute English teacher through an agency at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen. Davies told the hearing that he felt supported in his part-time job and fortunate to be receiving help from Alcoholics Anonymous and that he has yet to return to driving due to health issues.

Colin Adkins, a NASUWT teachers’ union official representing Davies, described him as a recovering alcoholic and said he was getting the help he needed. The committee had received good character references from Queen Elizabeth High School and Davies had no previous failures in his teaching career.

“We accept that driving a motor vehicle exceeding the limit three times is potentially dangerous for Mr Davies and other road users. Nevertheless, there were no accidents,” Mr Adkins told the panel. “While I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the crime, I do want to put it in the context of it taking place entirely in his personal life.” and no other person was harmed by his conduct.”

Mr Adkins added: “Here you have someone who is a recovering alcoholic who is receiving medical support. Davies was faced with two allegations, both of which he admitted and which the EWC Committee found to be substantiated.”

The allegations were that he was found guilty of driving under the influence on August 19 last year after a breathalyzer measured 120mg in 100ml of breath, resulting in a council order and a nine-month driving ban held a license and that the conviction constituted an “offence” relevant to his eligibility as a registered teacher.

In issuing a reprimand, the committee considered his open admission and remorse at both the trial and the professional hearing. Committee chair Michelle McBreeze said Davies took steps to address the personal and health issues that led to her. She said the teacher provided positive testimonials and character references, including from her last manager at Queen High School, Elizabeth, and although there was a risk of recurrence, it was small.

McBreeze called it “a serious incident.” conduct,” but Davies “took full responsibility for his actions and has shown clear remorse and remorse.” An asset to the profession, he added.

“The purpose of a warning is not a punishment. Mr. Davies’ behavior was unacceptable and must not happen again. The warning lasts two years and will be disclosed to employers,” said Ms McBreeze.

Mr Davies has the right to appeal to the High Court within 28 days

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Education

Carmarthenshire GCSE students celebrate results

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is congratulating all of the county’s students that are receiving their GCSE results today, Thursday 25th August 2022.

This year’s assessment and qualification process have returned to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic format of examinations which included adaptations to accommodate the ongoing effects of the pandemic that leaners and teachers have had to contend with. After two years without exams, students have had the opportunity to show what they’ve learned and what they can do through exams and assessments.

Whilst this year’s results are not directly comparable with any other year, overall in Wales, outcomes are higher than when exams were last sat in 2019 , but lower than 2021 when there was a different method of assessment.

In Carmarthenshire 72.1% of all entries have been awarded an A*-C grade representing an increase of 1.2% since examinations were last sat in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 68.6%.

27.2% of entries achieved an A*-A grade representing a significant increase of 5.9% in comparison to 2019 and again higher than the national average of 25.1%.  91.6 % of entries achieved an A* – E grade.

Speaking on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr. Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language said:

“We are so happy for those young people who are receiving their well-earned GCSE grades, congratulations to you all.”

“Carmarthenshire County Council is very proud of our young people’s achievements, as are we of the support and commitment given by their teachers, support staff, families and friends. Thank you all for your hard work in what has been a challenging couple of years, due to the COVDI-19 pandemic. We wish you all well in your future endeavours.”

In a joint statement, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters and Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans added:

“We are extremely proud what of has been achieved by our learners and they fully deserve these results. This year, for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, our GCSE learners have sat examinations. The pandemic, however, has loomed large over their preparations and they, along with their teachers, support staff, families and friends, have had to display resilience and dedication to achieve these fantastic results. We are grateful to you all.”

“We would also like to thank our schools and their staff for their continued hard work and commitment to providing our learners with the very best opportunities to succeed.”

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