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Veteran education expert vows to fight PLP disciplinary action

Ellen-Kate Horton is to face a Progressive Labour Party disciplinary committee over opposition to plans to close a Sandys primary school (File photograph)

A former education permanent secretary said last night she would fight disciplinary measures taken against her by the Progressive Labour Party over her opposition to a proposed school closure.

Ellen-Kate Horton, a veteran PLP member, added she had asked for legal advice over a PLP disciplinary hearing after she criticised the government’s plan to shut West End Primary School in Sandys.

She said: “I confirm that the PLP has commenced disciplinary proceedings against me.

“The grounds of this disciplinary action are frivolous and vexatious, and will be vigorously defended.

“In this regard, I am receiving legal advice as to my options and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.”

The Government has said it wanted to close the school, along with seven other primary schools, as part of its large-scale shake-up of the public education system and launched a public consultation.

But Ms Horton wrote in a submission that West End Primary’s history of support for Black children was enough reason to keep it open.

A PLP spokesman said last night: "We have robust debates within the PLP.

“We all value our members' privacy and find it fundamentally unfair that any member would be used publicly as a political football.”

He added: “Our party constitution – which is online for all to read – has private and fair processes in place to air disagreements and handle internal party matters.

“The PLP doesn’t comment on internal matters and whoever leaked this story owes our party member an apology."

It is understood that Jamahl Simmons, the PLP MP for Sandys South, has defended Ms Horton.

Mr Simmons is the son of former West End pupil Cecille Snaith-Simmons, who has also opposed the closure of the school.

Ms Snaith-Simmons said: “We live in a democracy and I am disappointed in the party’s stance against Ms Horton’s public support of the West End Primary School.

“She is a past student and a Somerset resident – she has the right to speak.

“When she speaks publicly it is because she wants the very best for the party.

“She is a respected educator and, instead of trying to humiliate her, her thoughts should be considered.”

Ms Snaith-Simmons asked: “Surely this government must have more important issues to deal with than disciplining its long-serving and faithful members?”

The Government proposed one school in each of the nine parishes, except Pembroke, which would have two.

The plans would bring the number of primary schools down from 18 to ten, with a new build in Devonshire.

The Government said it would release details of the public consultation on the closure of primary schools by the end of the month.

Ms Horton, who attended the Sandys school when the island was segregated, said in an interview with The Royal Gazette in February: “We have to consider the history – the thought of throwing it away is just sad.

“It is difficult, especially in light of the fact we were not allowed to go anywhere else – we had no choices …

“Memories like that stick with you and to think that today, we want to rid ourselves of the only legacy we had in Somerset.

“It holds a special place for us and the entire Somerset community.”

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Published June 09, 2021 at 11:48 am (Updated June 09, 2021 at 12:42 pm)

Veteran education expert vows to fight PLP disciplinary action

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