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An education chief vanishes

A north Wales council has refused to explain the mysterious three-week absence of its education chief.

Denbighshire county council will not say why Sioned Bowen, corporate director of lifelong learning, has been away from her office since October 4 even though it has now made some temporary appointments to cover her work.

While officials have remained silent, there have also been few clues from education professionals. One headteacher said the grapevine had been unusually quiet. Ms Bowen, the only female education director in Wales, is also the chair of the Association of Directors of Education in Wales (ADEW) and spoke in this capacity at a national primary school conference on October 8.

Vice-chair Karl Napieralla has taken up the post temporarily. He was unavailable for comment as TES Cymru went to press.

Richard Parry-Jones, Anglesey's director of education, said Ms Bowen had done a splendid job as chair of the ADEW. "We're hoping for a resolution to whatever has happened," he added.

The county council, headed by chief executive Ian Miller, has refused to discuss the matter, saying it would be inappropriate.

A spokesperson said: "When we are discussing personnel cases relating to individuals we do not to make any comment relating to the person in question."

She confirmed that Ms Bowen has not been suspended.

Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Clwyd West, is now pushing the council for an explanation.

He said: "She's well-respected by the teaching community as conscientious and prepared to stand her corner in a county where education spending per head doesn't compare well with other parts of Wales.

"She's not on sick leave, she's not suspended. It's a mystery and it's worrying. This is a key job and she has an important role in determining school budgets."

He added: "I'd like to see the council members be more forceful and get a better explanation about what's going on."

Councillor Neville Hugh Jones, chair of the council's lifelong learning scrutiny committee, said: "I don't know what's happened."

Ms Bowen's job has been split up. Ieuan Lloyd Roberts is acting as chief education officer in addition to his normal role as head of education. Ann Gosse has become temporary corporate director of lifelong learning but will retain her role as assistant director of culture and leisure.

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