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New threat to slap-case head

She has royal support and her union says she is the victim of a 'vendetta', but governors are still intent on confronting Marjorie Evans over further 'mistreatment' allegations. Julie Henry reports

Despite the news that Marjorie Evans can now count Prince Charles among her supporters, governors at her school have decided to press ahead with a disciplinary hearing that could yet mark the end of her 35-year career.

Next year the Welsh primary head - cleared of assaulting a pupil last year - will meet Prince Charles. But she will also face an interview with a panel of three governors over further allegations of pupil mistreatment.

Although Mrs Evans said that nothing surprised her any more, she described the governing body's move as "unbelievable".

Throughout the ordeal, Mrs Evans has kept a diary which she hopes to turn into a book when "the time is right".

She told The TES: "This latest development has not dampened my desire to return to school. In fact it has made me even more determined."

Mrs Evans has vowed not to let the latest development in the 15-month saga ruin her Christmas. However, it is the second festive holiday that will be overshadowed by uncertainty for her.

She was suspended from St Mary's junior school in Caldicot, near Newport, in September 1999 after being charged with slapping a 10-year-old pupil. She was dramatically convicted of assault in July but cleared on appeal.

But, as she celebrated outside the appeal court, she was informed of a further police probe into fresh allegations made by four members of staff.

The police dropped the investigation in October but Mrs Evans, who is on compassionate leave, was still not given a date when she could return to school.

Till now, the governing body had appeared reluctant to pursue disciplinary action. On two occasions it had deided against it, which had been taken as a sign that a resolution was around the corner.

A further morale boost came in a letter to Mrs Evans from Prince Charles expressing sympathy for her ordeal and requesting a "very private meeting".

Now, however, she could face a charge of gross misconduct which could lead to her dismissal.

Doug McAvoy, National Union of Teachers' general secretary, claimed the governors' action, supported by the local authority, Monmouthshire, "reinforces suspicions that there is a vendetta against Marjorie Evans".

Last week, Graham Powell, the headteacher's most vocal supporter, was voted off the governing body by a committee of seven county councillors.

Dyfan Jones, National Union of Teachers Cymru official, said: "This is a case of double jeopardy. On two occasions the governing body decided against disciplinary action and actually lifted Marjorie's suspension. Now they want to go ahead. What has changed?" Education director Phil Cooke, who was interviewed for the post of chief executive of Monmouthshire County Council this week, has refused to comment.

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