AN attempt to oust the councillor responsible for education in Torfaen has failed after serious concerns were expressed about the borough’s secondary schools.

Opposition members felt Cllr David Yeowell should be held responsible for poor performances which have seen Cwmbran High School and Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw enter special measures.

Cwmbran High’s head teacher, Helen Coulson, resigned last month, and the school’s insufficient progress could see its governing body replaced with an interim executive board.

Cllr Alan Slade said only one secondary school – St Alban’s RC High School – was rated green in the national schools categorisation system, adding that the remaining secondary schools were either currently under Estyn review, or had been previously.

On Thursday the Independent councillor tabled a motion calling for Cllr Yeowell’s dismissal, and urged Labour members not to put party loyalty “before the rights of children having the best education we can offer”.

He said: “If the situation at Cwmbran High isn’t sorted soon, there is every chance that some children will have undertaken their entire secondary education in a school in special measures.

“Shame on all of us, I say. I don’t believe in a blame game, but what is clear is that the executive member is accountable and bears responsibility for the performance of his portfolio.

“It’s equally clear that the secondary element of that portfolio has performed extremely poorly.”

Before leaving the council chamber while the motion was voted on, Cllr Yeowell admitted that nobody was happy with the current situation.

But there were “extenuating circumstances” in some cases, particularly Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, which he said had been recognised by Estyn.

Cllr Yeowell added: “We’re not happy with what’s happening in the secondary sector, and we have put in the kind of systems that we would expect to bring success going forward.”

Council leader Anthony Hunt, speaking in opposition to the motion, said Cllr Yeowell was the “right person to do the job”.

He said: “I can assure members that if I thought that a change of executive member was the key to improving things, then I would not hesitate to so.

“It won’t be out of party loyalty that I will be opposed to this, and I don’t think that singling this down to one individual is the right course of action.”

A total of 13 councillors voted in favour of dismissing Cllr Yeowell while 21 voted against, meaning the motion was defeated.

Four councillors – two from the Labour group and two Independents – had also left the chamber prior to the vote.

The extraordinary meeting heard that all schools were receiving varying levels of support from the council and the Education Achievement Service.

Chief education officer Dermot McChrystal said: “The vast majority of our resource goes to school and pays for staff.

“The role of the local authority is to get the best possible outcomes for those schools.

“We’ve got lots of fabulous staff in both schools, but it isn’t working, and we’ve outlined how we’ve used the available tools to affect change, but sometimes that’s difficult.”

Cllr Yeowell added: “The council is committed to supporting Cwmbran High School and is working with the staff, governors, EAS and others to support the school in making the progress at the pace that is needed.

“The council has introduced additional support and is taking steps to ensure that it has the best possible leadership to guide it through this challenging time.”