A KINGSWINFORD dance teacher has been left "devastated" at having to move her school after more than 50 years at a village church after a disagreement with the minister over safeguarding policies.

Olga Gwynn has been running The Gwynn School of Stage and Ballet Dancing from Kingswinford Methodist Church for 51 years and she has delighted in seeing a host of star pupils gain places at top dance schools and ballet companies over the years.

But Mrs Gwynn, who is still taking classes at the age of 80, says she was told by church officials that she could no longer run her school from the premises unless she had parents of the children or an appropriate adult supervisor to sit in with her while she teaches.

She said: "I was told unless parents and grandparents can sit in the room while you’re teaching I’m afraid you can’t have these premises in September - but I don’t want parents running around the room and talking while I’m teaching. I’ve never known it before.

"I was absolutely devastated."

Reverend Peter Knight, who took over as minister at the Stream Road church 12 months ago, said schools, social workers, many dance associations and other organisations dealing with children adhere to and promote the policy of having a minimum of two adults supervising youngsters to comply with government and NSPCC safeguarding and health and safety guidelines.

He said the church had tried to come up with a solution for Mrs Gwynn to enable her to continue running her classes there and he added: "The best way and the most financially viable way would have been to have one of the parents of the children there."

He told the News it had been "a really difficult one for us" and added: "We really tried to help.

"We have tried to support her over the years to come up to the guidelines.

"We have to follow the standards, we really felt that now was the time to say it needs to be firmed up."

Rev Knight continued: "We offered to help her if she could find a volunteer - someone not related to her. We wanted to keep her in the church profile."

"It's not been an easy decision; it's one she has taken, she had to withdraw as she couldn't meet expectations.

He said Mrs Gwynn had been "a really valued part of the church for many years" and there had been no concerns about her but the methodist church safeguarding policy states there should always be a minimum of two adults present at any activity within the church and he added: "It's about health and safety; it's also the issue of creating a safe space for children. We're insured on the terms of the methodist church policy, if we act outside of our guidelines it's not valid."

Mrs Gwynn, who appeared in the film The Red Shoes as a young girl, said she had been "really hurt" by the way the issue was handled by the church and she added: "I was ever so upset. It's really hurt me that a minister of the cloth could treat me that way."

She has, however, been offered the use of Wordsley Community Centre once a week so her classes will continue every Wednesday at the centre at The Green from Wednesday September 6.

Mrs Gwynn, who has donated thousands of pounds to charities over the years from the proceeds of her shows, said: "I want to thank them very much. I can continue my work now. The first thing we're going to do is dance for the pensioners at their luncheon club."