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Child protection misses deadlines

Key child protection recommendations arising from the 2004 Clywch inquiry have mostly been put in place - but in many cases belatedly, according to an Assembly government report.

William Graham, education spokesperson for the Welsh Conservatives, claimed this week that one third of 22 recommendations directed at the government were still in consultation and yet to be actioned.

Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, dismissed the claim, saying all bar one of the children's commissioner Peter Clarke's recommendations had been "acted on or are in the process of being so".

But her own report to the Assembly's education committee shows missed deadlines for delivering guidance on whistleblowing for school staff, on sharing information about allegations of abuse with other agencies, and on safeguarding the welfare of children performing in television or media.

The whistleblowing guidance was published last month - a year late.

Guidance and regulations on the other two issues are due out shortly, but 12 to 18 months after deadlines set by Clywch.

And work is still on-going about revising guidance on how allegations of child abuse should be investigated. However, finalised advice for drama teachers was issued this week, within sight of Clywch's two-year deadline.

And UK-wide guidance on how exam boards should deal with child protection issues is already available. Ms Davidson also said teacher-training providers were "following the principles" of another Clywch recommendation, that new teachers get input on child protection during initial training.

Subject to Assembly agreement, this will be a legal requirement from September 2007, she added.

And a recommendation for four independent tribunals, chaired by lawyers, to hear allegations of abuse against school staff has been superceded by other arrangements, agreed with the children's commissioner.

Instead of the tribunals, school governors must now appoint an independent non-governor with full voting rights to sit on disciplinary and dismissal committee hearings and appeals dealing with child protection issues.

And from September, they will have to appoint an independent investigator to examine allegations of abuse against school staff. Funding will be available from the Assembly government.

The Clywch inquiry investigated allegations of sexual abuse at a south Wales secondary school involving former drama teacher John Owen, who committed suicide in 2001.

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