A Cardiff faith school in “special measures” has cost the public purse more than £1 million.
St Alban’s RC Primary School in Tremorfa, Cardiff, spent £980,871 on temporary staff cover alone between September 2008 and August 2012.
A series of investigations conducted over a three-year period cost a further £60,940, while four members of staff were each suspended on full pay for at least a year.
But there has also been an alarming human cost to the disruption.
There have been 52 separate requests for pupil transfers to other Cardiff schools since issues began to surface in 2008.
Seven pupils have asked to leave St Alban’s during the current academic year, though figures do not include transfer requests made directly to faith schools.
Performance and prospects for improvement at St Alban’s were last year deemed “unsatisfactory” by education watchdog Estyn.
A damning inspection report found “systemic failures” in management and it became the first school in Wales to require an interim executive board (IEB).
A campaign by parents to resolve issues at the school has been ongoing since an investigation into “personnel matters” was first launched in 2009.
A series of suspensions saw the school’s deputy headteacher Paul Holland suspended on full pay for three years and 20 days, while another member of staff was absent for two years and 76 days. Mr Holland had his suspension lifted in September.
Jane Vaterlaws, who stood down as headteacher in October, was herself suspended on full pay for one year and 127 days.
It is not clear how much suspended St Alban’s staff were paid, but senior school staff regularly earn in the region of £50,000 a year.
Steve Belcher, regional organiser for Unison Cymru who represented two teaching assistants suspended from the school, accused Cardiff council of mismanaging the situation over four years and “squandering” huge sums of money that should have been spent on children’s education.
“This whole debacle has been catastrophically managed,” he said.
“Unison raised serious concerns about the running of St Alban’s some years ago but unfortunately neither the governing body nor the council were prepared to listen.
“For far too long they neglected the most important people involved in the school, the pupils.
“An absolutely shocking sum of money has been wasted at St Alban’s in recent years.
“This is money that should have been spent on the education of children in Cardiff.”
St Alban’s spent £270,537 on 10 temporary staff in 2010-11 and £384,661 on 12 additional workers a year later.
Elsewhere in the city, Adamsdown Primary spent £14,213, Ysgol Treganna in Canton forked out £14,976 and Pentyrch Primary spent just £11,117 on temporary cover in 2010-11.
St Alban’s saw seven full-time staff leave the school in 2011-12, while a further nine left between September 2008 and August 2011.
Figures show that two teachers missed 20 working days or more in 2011-12, while three teachers missed at least a month of school in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething said the St Alban’s revelations did not come as a surprise.
“They do, however, underline the appalling historic failure of local and strategic leadership of St Alban’s,” he said.
“The failures of the previous council administration and the archdiocese to intervene when things were clearly going badly wrong have produced a quite staggering financial cost.
“The greater cost that we should all be concerned about is the cost to the children and their families.
“They lost the high quality educational start that every child should be entitled to.”
But Mr Gething praised the positive strides being made by a new leadership and support structure at the school.
He added: “The interim headteachers and the interim board are making a difference and improving the education that children receive.”
Measures taken by Cardiff council and the archdiocese appear to be working, with schools inspectorate Estyn satisfied “effective strategies” are in place to raise standards.
In a recent monitoring report, inspectors said long-term uncertainties are “slowly being addressed” and the school is continuing to make progress against all its recommendations.
Estyn will visit St Alban’s again next term and Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Cymru, said it was important to deal with “complex personnel matters” quickly.
“Local authorities and diocesan authorities, as well as the schools themselves, have a responsibility here in ensuring proper processes are observed,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Cardiff Council said: “The circumstances at St Alban’s RC Primary School were complex, unprecedented and required extensive resources and support from both the council and the diocesan authority.
“As part of this, the council appointed an IEB to address the issues in the school which is now moving positively in the right direction.”