School Governing Body Say Council Has Undermined Them

The Five Islands School

Lawyers acting on behalf of the school Governing Body have written to the Council and the Department of Education alleging that the Council has tried to, “usurp the Governing Body and undermine their efforts” to investigate the suspension of the head teacher and acting assistant head.

The 10-page letter was prepared by a legal firm recommended to the Governing Body by the Diocese after Governors became concerned that their only source of legal advice came from the Council.

They allege that the Council actions have had a, “serious and detrimental impact on the ability of the school to function.”

The letter outlines a catalogue of concerns, including claims that the Council has acted beyond its legal authority.

The letter says that the work of the investigating Governor has been made more difficult as the Council and their contractors, Cornwall Council, have not answered questions and have suggested that officers who carried out the original audit take over the Governors’ enquiries.

The letter also alleges that Council Officer, Penny Penn Howard, attended a Governors meeting convened at short notice on May 18th and told the Governors they had to suspend Mr Wilby or she would ask the Council to take control of the school or suspend the head teacher themselves.

The Governors state that they now understand that the Council did not have authority to take that action.

The Governors’ lawyers allege that it was the Council’s officers that prepared the head’s suspension letter. They also say his name was removed from the school letterhead in a letter sent by the Council on May 30th while he was on a mutually agreed suspension.

They also question whether the Council had the legal right to suspend the acting assistant head. The Governors claim they were given 30 minutes notice of this and cite Government guidelines, which imply only the Governing Body could do this and the Council didn’t have the authority.

Last night the Lead Member for Children, Councillor David Pearson, said he’d back that action even if the Council had no authority, because children’s safety had to come first.

The School Governors’ lawyers have complained that the Council has by-passed them as the body in charge by allegedly instructing Cornwall Council staff to audit the school without Governors consent and asking for the audit two days before the Governors knew.

The Council’s agent’s removed laptops and original paperwork, including confidential documents from the school on two occasions, but provided no list of what was taken and have not responded to Governor demands to return it. The Governors believe that this is a breach of the data protection act.

The letter, which has been copied to the office of Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, states that some Governors believe the action was a response to the head teacher questioning the amount of education grant that the Council retains and does not pass directly to the school.

It also outlines some Governors’ belief that the suspension was driven by Bryce Wilby’s interest in Academy status. The Head returned from a fact-finding trip to the mainland to discover he was suspended.

Radio Scilly now understands that the alleged financial impropriety surrounding the head teacher involves the head accessing the preferential airfare discount rate to make savings on purchasing personal mainland flights.

The Governors have formally requested that the Council indemnify their Board against any financial claim made by the two suspended staff.

The letter was received by Scilly’s MP Andrew George and was mailed to Chief Executive Philip Hygate, Director of Finance Peter Lawrence and the Chairman of Council Mike Hicks.

Last night we asked Mike to respond to the allegations in the document but he said he had not yet received a copy.

 



One Response to School Governing Body Say Council Has Undermined Them

  1. Jack, Maidstone July 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Oh look what happens when you get independent legal advice…
    Damn lawyers with their law, no place for law on these islands.