The manufacturer's advice when handling fireworks is to light the blue touch paper and retreat to a safe distance. That's just what I did last Monday afternoon, though not by design. I made public a hugely incendiary 'document for consultation' supposedly concerning the 'modernisation' of secondary education in Powys. It had been prepared within the Council, without the knowledge of the councillors. I then took myself and Mrs D off on a planned break to Tenerife for four days. Just my luck. Biggest story to hit the streets of Montgomeryshire for decades, and when the media were gagging for interviews, I was playing golf in 25 degrees off the coast of North Africa.
Anyway, we're back today. Let's recap and reflect on what's happened. I was given the document (by two people, seperately) last Friday. Grasped its explosiveness over the weekend. After some angst, decided to release it on Monday - so that the people (and the councillors) know what's going on. I also wrote to headteachers and to Town and Community Councils. Finally, I asked my office to arrange public meetings in the towns where it was envisaged that the High Schools could close. These meetings have been arranged for Monday 25th in Llanfyllin, Wednesday 27th in Llanfair Caereinion, and Wednesday 3rd of Feb. in Llanidloes. Another meeting has been held in Newtown, which was nothing to do with me.
I'm told that when the first reports were published on Tuesday, I was being accused of being 'sensationalist' - apparently there's "nothing to worry about". The person who said that either hadn't read the document or is clueless about what concerns Montgomeryshire people. But as far as I know, only one individual took this line. Now I'm told that Powys Councillor Les Davies is demanding that there be a witch hunt to uncover the 'leaker'. Honestly. Its on BBC Online. Mind you, Powys Councillors have some form here. A few years ago the Council spent several thousand trying to uncover another whistle blower who did the public a service by informing us of a scandalous failure to make vital CRB checks. Some suspected I was involved then.
Two other points worth making. Late Monday night, Chief Executive, Jeremy Patterson decided to make the document public (for which he should be applauded). We will now have a proper public debate about this mighty issue - before the whole thing has been stitched up behind closed doors, and we are presented with a fait accompli. The Councillors might even be given a say!! And secondly, an amazing debate has emerged on facebook, where over two thousand people have joined in. Its absolutely phenomenal. Convinced me that facebook really matters. Joanne Morgan administers it all in an independent and engaging way. For what it's worth, I think there should be a fifth 'model' added to the document, which involved abolition of the Local Education Authority, and transfer of management directly to schools. Radical I know. But no more so than just shutting down three genuine centres of educational excellence. And I've only been home a few hours. Even though the golf was fantastic, this issue has made the break seem an age ago already.