Council Brings In Consultant To Deal With School Morale

The Five Islands School

A school governor has described a statement issued by the Council regarding morale at the Five Islands School as “inappropriate and inaccurate.”

A news release, issued by the Town Hall, said a headteacher consultant is being brought in to the school to interview all staff and governors, “to gain a broader understanding of the issues troubling staff members at the school.”

The visit has been arranged through North Somerset Council who work in partnership with Scilly’s Local Education Authority.

The Town Hall say this has been done in discussion with the governing body, but governors that we spoke to over the weekend are upset at the statement and they say that it’s not true.

Governors claim they decided to bring in a consultant to talk to staff before the headteacher’s suspension and are unhappy that the Council has not consulted them before going public on this.

The Council states that they take a vote of no confidence in the headteacher, which was signed by 49 staff, very seriously. They say that it was submitted through the Town Hall’s whistleblowing procedure.

The governors have not been allowed to view the petition, which was handed over to the Council.

ScillyToday has heard from parents who are concerned about the atmosphere in school following the suspension of the school headteacher, Bryce Wilby.

Mums and dads have shared a range of worries including allegations that a class was left unsupervised and that there have been exam timetabling conflicts. One parent felt that the school was “falling apart” and was worried it could end up back under ‘special measures’ if the situation continues.

Senior school governors are refusing to answer questions about disarray and poor morale at the Five Islands School in the wake of the suspension of Head Teacher.

We have contacted both the Chair of the Board of Governors, Richard Vaughan, as well as Vice Chair, Gail Sibley. Richard has not returned our calls or messages and Gail said she didn’t want to talk but she did issue a statement.

It says: “The issues raised have been addressed by the Acting Head Teacher and parents are fully aware of the procedures to follow regarding issues surrounding the education of their children.”

Director of Adult, Children's Community Services, Penny Penn Howard

The Council’s Director of Adult, Children’s Community Services claims that staff will know that their concerns are being addressed and that the consultant head will work towards improving morale.

Penny Penn Howard went on to say that the consultant’s report will be presented to the governing body and Local Authority in two to three weeks.

Meanwhile, over three weeks since his suspension, the headteacher and the governors have not been informed what Bryce Wilby is alleged to have done.

Governors we spoke to allege they were told to suspend the head by Council officers who didn’t provide a reason at the May 19th meeting. The Council last week issued a statement claiming the action was due to alleged financial irregularities.

Cornwall auditors had been in the school.

But now some governors are questioning the strength of evidence as it’s been so long and with an increased emphasis now being placed by the Authority on the staff petition.


24 Responses to Council Brings In Consultant To Deal With School Morale

  1. CatherineM June 29, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    As an ex student of the Five Island School I would just like to say what a good head teacher My Wilby was! At the end of the day the students are the ones suffering now, also what kind of lesson are we teaching the students here? I think the best thing for the school right now is to go into Special measures that way teachers wont be able to leave a lesson unsupervised and there will be no exam timetabling conflicts. I hope this gets sorted soon for the sake of the students but also for people who have been affected by all this!

  2. Bill Hiner June 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t pretend to know what’s happening at the school, but I have a few fundemental concerns.
    There is a huge difference between a petition and a vote of confidence (There is no such thing as a vote of no confidence). A petition is usually a misguided but well-intentioned way of getting grievances across to someone in authority, and can be used by a few people with genuine complaints to induce others to “Jump on the band wagon”. It is interesting to note that petitions are not recognised in the Civil Service.
    A vote of confidence (which is usually taken by a group of workers who know it will go in their favour, and therefore fail to support the person the vote was instigated against), is almost always initiated by a Trade Union. Is that the case here? Are all the 49 disaffected staff union members, and if so, what is their representing bodies’ opinion and advice?
    I say this because unions are the traditional buffer between management and the staff.
    I feel all I read here is hearsay and rumour. I have no vested interest either way, but I am an advocate of fair play. I think this whole affair has brought the worst out in people and shows these little islands in a pretty poor light. Sometimes outside help has to be sought to play down local emotion.

    • Tamar June 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

      I think that outside help is what most islanders agree is needed.

    • TomD June 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Sorry to be pedantic Bill, but a petition demands a specific course of action, and a vote of no confidence is a statement. The vote of no confidence, I’m led to believe, was nothing to do with any Trades Union and was signed by a variety of unionised and non unionised staff from across the whole specrum of the school staff .Outside involvement is at the centre of investigating this statement, so I feel it’s best to wait a short time to see what an independent invesigation reveals.

    • Frank Gray June 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Which will be why a Consultant from North Somerset was brought in to meet all staff, of either view, and Govenors and to provide a report on the “vote/petition/confidence/no confidence” I don’t think the name matters that much and the morale issues. That report will be issued at some stage – we “concerned” persons just have to wait and see.

  3. Todd Stevens June 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Mine is simply concern. Although I do think the problem lies elsewhere rather than with every Head Teacher that has passed this way thus far!

  4. Frank Gray June 27, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    What precisely do you imply Todd? Were they all useless? Were they all “forced” out by bad Governorship or bad Local Authority management. Could they not cope with the pressure?
    I’ll ask you again to declare your interest, I have declared mine before, I am a relative of a school employee and like Diane, Em J and others I am concerned for the well being of my relative and the school in general. It is a brilliant resource for the Islands and the result of a lot of very hard work by a large number of people (not just the most recently appointed Head) to provide a ground-breaking, market-leading facility for the children and Islanders alike.

  5. Todd Stevens June 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    How many Head teachers have we had here in 15 years? =7? 8? I think that kind of statistic speaks for itself.

  6. Em J June 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Well, I’m not a legal expert and I’m not pretending to be one, so my terminology may be incorrect. I’m simply speaking from my point of view based on what I know from both sides. As far as I’m concerned, the situation is being sorted in a legal manner – as legal experts have been consulted on both sides – and that’s all I can say about it. I’m not quoting anyone nor am I reading the disciplinary procedures handbook as I comment.
    As for the ‘petition’, ‘vote of no confidence’, whatever it is – as you said, staff have a right to be protected – including the staff who signed this. So perhaps it is unfair to ask them to go public about who signed it and why, although I think perhaps a lot of people will stand up and explain if given the opportunity.
    Unfortunately this is a community where people who are not directly involved do take sides despite perhaps not understanding the whole situation as they have been misguided or cajoled – and it’s pointless to pretend this doesn’t go on.
    I’m not talking about legalities or the justice system. Just simply adding my comments to a comment board, which is what this is.

    • Frank Gray June 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      Good on you Em! Truth will out very soon, I hear!

    • Diane Cidade June 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

      We’re all just adding comments to a comment board. No one is claiming to be a legal expert here. You may voice your assumptions about how people ‘against the suspension’ think and point out the supposed flaws in their thinking, and in turn, your comments may be countered or expanded on. It’s what having a discussion is about, and at the end of it, we don’t all have to agree.

      Some of us care very much about this community (I’m sure there are also others who couldn’t give a rat’s), so whether directly involved or not, we do all have links to the school, and certainly to the actions of our council. It concerns me that numerous people have been put under extremely unhealthy amounts of stress in relation to these events when a lot of it could have been avoided, I’m sure. The wider issues relating to ethics and procedures have reared their ugly heads again, but by no means are they new, and recent events have merely served as a catalyst. I’m not implying that processes are wholly ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but surely if we discover things aren’t done correctly, we have an obligation to put them right and watch to make sure they don’t happen again? It should therefore follow that the council and school governors (where appropriate) should be forthcoming in addressing concerns over whether procedures were followed correctly (in time, of course) and be accountable. As a number of people have already said, “we will see”.

      We’ve seen numerous governors step down in the last week; is it not important to question why and find out if there are larger concerns there?
      Is there in fact a relationship in the timing of this ‘petition’ (apparently treated as ‘whistleblowing’) and the headteacher’s suspension?
      Why have we had, according to Todd, as many as 7 or maybe even 8 head teachers in 15 years?
      What other methods have staff at the school used to raise their concerns regarding management of themselves and the school?
      Are there conflicts of interest in either of the current investigations?

      Just because these and many other questions are being asked doesn’t mean they necessarily have sinister answers. However, none of us, and I include myself, can make a fully formed opinion without these answers, so it would be foolish to try to stop these questions from being asked. If these types of questions are so entirely unfounded, then perhaps the powers-that-be should open their eyes to the strong feelings in this community that many of the big decisions are shrouded in secrecy and the little ones maladroitness (please see, and should change their procedures!

  7. Diane Cidade June 17, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I’m sorry Em J, but it does sound to me like you are mixing the issues.

    If the petition (if that’s what it’s being called?) is being treated seriously, then so be it, but it must be done in a fair and transparent way. If that turns out to be the case, then there isn’t a problem there. Out of interest, in what other ways have staff tried to sort out their differences?

    Also, when it comes to this, or any other governing body’s ethics, there are correct and honest ways to proceed with things, and these are prescribed by law. This applies with how the ‘petition’ is dealt with and also applies to how the suspension is dealt with. They’re separate issues, but they both have proper ways of being dealt with. Furthermore, there are many reasons why people might be “against the suspension”, so your comment seems unfair to be addressed to everyone. If the suspension was necessary to allow for a further investigation to be made, then so be it, but it must all be done in a fair way and for the right reasons. It’s not about ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ or about who is ‘liked’ and ‘disliked’. It’s about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’. I’m sure if you were to find yourself in the same position, you would want your rights protected, regardless of what people think of you or what you’ve done. Have a look at the justice system – whether suspect or guilty, people have rights in this country. That’s something to be proud of and worth protecting.

    Also, I feel the need to draw your attention to what is potentially wrong with your final point: “They may oppose the council and it’s leaders, but that doesn’t mean someone who has been disciplined by them hasn’t done something wrong.” If you are implying that Mr. Wilby has been ‘disciplined’, then you would be incorrect. Suspension is a ‘neutral act’ (which the Council have made in a statement), therefore, you, nor I, should view it as a form of discipline. If it is being used as a form of discipline, then we find ourselves square in the middle of an ethical/legal problem, and I assure you that has nothing to do with emotional ties to any one side.

  8. Todd Stevens June 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Staff issues with Wilby can easily be addressed IF he is allowed back to work. The petition and his suspension are seperate issues. It strikes me as odd that still nothing has come of the investigation yet though. Its time this was brought to conclusion.

    • Frank Gray June 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Don’t be daft, how could he possibly engage with the clearly disengaged staff!

  9. Tamar June 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I may have misunderstood the situation, but I understood that the vote of no confidence and suspension were separate things?

  10. Jon June 15, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    But taking a balanced view, teachers have consistently opposed performance-related pay. Perhaps we have a bunch of people here who don’t like the changes being brought in at the school, even though it’s necessary. Remember, the school was in special measures a few years ago. It’s the education of our children that’s important, not whether the teachers are ‘relaxed and happy’.

    • Em J June 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      The school’s grades picked up and funnily enough have gone down again in the past couple of years. If the staff aren’t motivated, and I’m talking atmosphere and work environment as opposed to money, children aren’t going to get the quality of teaching they deserve as the staff’s hearts aren’t in it.
      Perhaps the people who are against the suspension because they don’t approve of the council’s ethics should consider that there isn’t always a ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ in situations like this. They may oppose the council and it’s leaders, but that doesn’t mean someone who has been disciplined by them hasn’t done something wrong.

  11. Em J June 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I’d just like to say that until you work in the school you have no idea. The atmosphere in there at the moment is fantastic, much more relaxed and the staff are happier. The current Acting Head is doing a superb job and this article couldn’t be further from the truth if it tried. It just shows that whoever writes these articles are extremely biased and need to consider the other side of the story! Just remember that truth will out!

  12. TomD June 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    The suspension of the Head teacher for alleged ‘financial irregularity’ and the large majority of staff voting that they have no confidence in him, are two separate issues. It would be best for all concerned to let due process occur regarding the investigation of the alleged irregularity, and for the staff to be allowed to press ahead with the inquiry into their dissatisfaction with the Head’s leadership. I don’t see a ‘witch hunt,’ rather an extraordinary set of events which need to be resolved in the correct manner. Unattributed vox pop comments such as the school is “falling apart” are facile and patently untrue. From my perspective the staff and students are working as hard as ever, and apart from the antics of bodies such as HEART and nameless Governors, things continue operate well. Time will be the judge of Mr Wilby and the staff’s view of him.

    • Frank Gray June 13, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      Hear Hear, well said!

      • Katie June 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

        Yes, a very sensible and highly lucid point that avoids vitriol. Given that the financial irregularities are being investigated by independent auditors it probably does make sense to let Justice Time rule.

    • Diane Cidade June 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

      It’s interesting that you mention that you say these events need to be resolved in the “correct manner”. The instigators are more than welcome to do so anytime they like; we’re still watching and waiting. You need to have a good long think about what might have motivated people to sign a petition, and whether they understood the full ramifications of doing so. Indeed, time will tell us all, but you must be careful when putting your blind faith into thinking that the ‘correct’ thing would automatically be done without the so-called ‘antics’ of bodies pressing for a more honest and transparent government.

      • TomD June 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm

        The professionals who signed the vote of no confidence in Mr Wilby’s leadership did so voluntarily and individually. From what I understand, the dissatisfaction is from all sectors of the school’s staff, and includes off islands as well. What motivated these people is clear, not self interest or personal grudges with Mr Wilby, it’s exasperation that long held problems with his leadership were being ignored, and in the interests of the school something had to be done. It takes an awful lot for school staff to vote against their headteacher, it is relatively rare and needs to be respected for what is is – a cry for help to ensure that the school is well run and that the children get the best education that can be provided for them. The staff are intelligent andof course they fully understood the “full ramifications” of their actions.

  13. JeffEastick June 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    This whole situation would seem to be a total shambles , with no one willing to take any responsibility. Surely someone can take proper control and sort out what seems to be degenerating into a witchhunt. It is the children who will be suffering.