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Head that rolled pulls no punches

Adi Bloom reports on headteacher Marjorie Evans' year back in school after being cleared of assault

One year after returning to school, Marjorie Evans, the headteacher cleared after 18 months of investigations into assault allegations, still feels aggrieved that she has not received an apology from the people and the authorities involved.

"None of us is over it," she said. "We're unlikely to get over it this quickly. I don't know if any of us ever will. I don't bear any grudges, because I'm not that sort of person. But I'm aggrieved that the people involved haven't been disciplined for telling lies.

"There is nothing we can do, because they no longer belong to this school, so the governing body can't take any action. The ball was in the local authority's court to do something last year, and it obviously chose not to. I don't think it will be doing anything now."

A year ago Mrs Evans was given the all-clear to return to St Mary's primary school in Caldicot, Gwent, six months after being cleared on appeal at the High Court of slapping a 10-year-old pupil.

Her suspension remained in place because police were investigating further allegations of pupil mistreatment at the school.

But even after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take any further action Mrs Evans was not allowed to return to the school until she was cleared at a three-day disciplinary hearing last March.

Although the 57-year-old head claims that the experiences of the past year have not affected the way she runs the school, she has developed a new zero-tolerance attitude towards problem pupils. Where before staff might have been more inclined to talk through a problem, they now take more immediate, direct action: "We've had chats with parents, a couple of temporary suspensions. We're asking for more counselling for children who are emotionally and behaviourally disturbed."

Last year, she took centre-stage at the National Union of Teachers conference, telling delegates of her ordeal. This week, she attended a conference organised jointly by the NUT and the Law Society, where she called for a tougher response to false allegations.

This year she has spent all her time re-establishing herself at the helm of St Mary's. "I've not done a great deal to champion accused teachers," she said. "I've not had time, with a school to run and an inspection coming up.

"The first thing that struck me, after the euphoria of getting back, was that the place was a tip. It was very, very untidy - people had taken things to pieces and not looked after the equipment."

When she first came back, six of the staff who had given evidence against her still worked at the school. One by one, however, they left on sick leave, or to other jobs.

"I came across one of them in a face-to-face situation, but I just ignored it - I treated them as if they were a stranger. Maybe it wasn't very good, but it was my way of dealing with that situation."

Elizabeth Raikes, chief executive of Monmouthshire County Council, said: "I have spoken with Mrs Evans and expressed regret at the experience she was subject to over a long period of time.

"The council acted in the best interest of pupils and while it has been criticised for defects in procedures, the actions it took have not been brought into question."

Faced with an inspection, Mrs Evans concentrated on bringing the school up to the standard she expected. The official report, on last month's inspection has not yet been published but she said she was pleased with the initial feedback.

"The inspectors were very supportive and understanding. I think we have all worked much, much harder than usual to get us to where we are. We have done in one term what most people take a year, two years to do."

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