Pembrokeshire's director of education and children's service set to retire
9:42am Wednesday 3rd October 2012 in News
UNDER fire Pembrokeshire County Council Education boss Graham Longster has announced his retirement admitting: "I am perceived externally to be part of the problem relating to safeguarding."
The Director of Education and Children's Services, Mr Longster was in charge when inspectors severely criticised child safeguarding arrangements, leading to a Welsh Government ministerial board being parachuted in to help overcome failures.
In an email to colleagues, seen by the Western Telegraph, Mr Longster said his "position has become increasingly untenable in recent months" and after much consideration he has decided it is time to retire.
"I am not prepared to continue to work under the direction of members of the Ministerial Board.
"It is disappointing to leave at such a critical time as I very much wanted to achieve a measure of recovery.
"Unfortunately, I am perceived externally to be part of the problem relating to safeguarding. I believe that my continuation in post would only prolong these difficulties for the authority," adds Mr Longster's email.
It was revealed earlier this year that Mr Longster, who took up his position in September 2010, failed to act on a serious child safeguarding issue - until told what to do by Welsh Government troubleshooters - when a child's hands were allegedly tied behind his back by a teacher.
Following scathing reports last year deputy minister for children and social services Gwenda Thomas said a ministerial board was necessary despite some progress because "council officers up to the most senior levels have failed to engage or support members properly".
In his email Mr Longster also states that he is grateful for the strong support from elected members, senior officers, headteachers, governors and staff.
"Despite the safeguarding issue, I have enjoyed my role and have tried to make a positive contribution to our schools and services in Pembrokeshire," he said.
A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said: "Graham Longster, Director of Education and Children’s Services, has indicated his intention to retire on December 31st, this year.
"The county council will be putting in place appropriate arrangements to cover the Director’s responsibilities in due course."
A Welsh Government spokesperson said that Mr Longster's decision to retire is a matter for him and Pembrokeshire County Council. : "In August 2011, Estyn and CSSIW published their report on the handling and management arrangements of allegations of professional abuse and arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire.
"This report concluded "that there has been a lack of oversight by elected members and officers, at the most senior level within the authority, of the management and handling of cases of alleged professional abuse in education services".
"Estyn at the same time reported on the quality of local education services for children and young people in Pembrokeshire, describing the county's education services as unsatisfactory with unsatisfactory prospects for improvement.
"At the time of these reports the Welsh Government said that we were not going stand by and allow this to continue.
"In view of the serious concerns raised about Safeguarding in Pembrokeshire, Ministers felt it was necessary to put in place a Board to address the issues raised. In July the Welsh Government decided to issue a direction to Pembrokeshire County Council to comply with any instructions issued by His Honour Graham Jones, as Chair of the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, following the Authority's failure to convince us that it was addressing safeguarding issues with the urgency and commitment required.
"The Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board will continue to support the Authority to help it address the concerns highlighted in the original CSSIW and Estyn Inspections."