Well, we did it! We banged our drums and shouted “Save our School” til we all but lost our voices! The kids were an absolute credit to us all and to our schools and the community. I was so proud of them, chanting and banging one minute, and then sitting so respectfully and quietly in the Council Chamber the next…but more on that in the next post.
I was mildly surprised that all three Ward Members were there. But then I realised that that was surely because the cameras were there. After all, as the Gwent Music Service saw, almost no-one came out to watch/engage with their musical demonstration, and they had no TV coverage.
I was totally blown away that ITV Wales News not only promised to come and cover the story, but actually came and covered it! I felt that the coverage was fantastic, and the best thing is that it was part of a wider story regarding the consultation to downgrade A&E services at the Royal Glamorgan. The reason that is good news is that it is Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Minister for Education (the man who will make the final decision on our schools) who is leading that campaign against the cuts, and here – right in the middle of his story – was a story of how the cuts were affecting children’s education in Newport (his area of influence being the Minister). So he must have either seen or been told about our news item, which will at the very least show him the intense opposition there is to this proposal (which may or may not be accurately reflected in the report that the Education Department here send him, if the last reports are anything to go by!)
The Argus reporter, Emma Mackintosh live-tweeted the demo to the Argus website, and we made yesterday’s front page (with a not-so-flattering ‘live action shot’ of some of us on the front!! Ha ha!!)
Early on in the demonstration, some of the other demonstrators saw some people taking photos and even possibly a video of us from the windows in the Civic Centre overlooking the demonstration. This is appalling.
Just because official media outlets, ITV News Wales, and the SWA had been invited to document the event, and others were openly taking photographs with our consent (e.g, Maria Farrelly, a parent) this DID NOT give anyone else especially unidentified, hidden-behind-curtains employees of the Council the right to do the same.
It is not just that this may be a breach of the Data Protection Act (no permission sought or given, and we don’t know who the people were or why they wanted the photos or videos of us), it is also a Child Protection issue.
I would never dream of videoing or photographing other people’s children in a public park or in the street, so why on earth would Council officials, who should know this better than anyone else, think they could?
Finally, and most importantly to me, these actions speak to a clear narrative thread that has run thoughout the ‘consultation’ process – intimidation and bullying.
As I have shown in previous posts, our staff feel intimidated and bullied, having been told at the eleventh hour (well into the Satutory Notice period) that they should not have been openly opposing their employer, and if found to have done so, disciplinaries could follow. Why were they not informed before the start of the consultation? Neither were we – the Governors – warned to protect them in this way until after the fact.
Our Chair of Governors was called down to the Civic Centre three weeks ago to be effective grilled by a senior Education Department officer and a representative from HR. The Junior school Chair was not there (that’s Cllr Herbie Thomas for those who are interested).
To what extent have the staff been involved in the campaign? Have they handed out flyers? Was the school photocopier used? Etc etc. Seriously. This is completely unacceptable. Bullying in my view.
And let’s not even go into another senior Education Department officer’s conduct in the December 3rd meetings. A complaint went in at the time about that behaviour and attitude, and all aspects of the complaint upheld.
Questions have gone unanswered, letters unresponded to.
I have been accused of using the Save Gaer Schools campaign as a springboard for my own political ambitions.
How dare anyone suggest that I am not genuinely interested in saving my children’s school, but actually am using it to further my own ends. It would be funny if the claim was not so downright petulant and childish..
I am not the one trying to use this situation for my own benefit.
I am not the one – and neither is the campaign or anyone involved in it – that has sought to get politicise this protest.
The next post will be about the ‘meeting’ with the councillors after the demo. I have invited some of the other parents to share their views, and they are doing so. I’ll collate them and post them together.
Rock on, Gaer.