Independent Enquiry Into Head’s Suspension Needed Says Council Chair

The Five Islands School

The Council Chairman Mike Hicks has promised an independent enquiry into procedures that led to the removal and resignation of the Five Islands School head teacher Bryce Wilby.

Mike says today, which is Bryce’s last day as a Council staff member, is not the end of the matter, as the Council is in a “fairly dark place” at the moment.

Last night, the chief executive of the islands’ Council, Philip Hygate, was summoned by senior councillors following a leaked email, which outlined advice sent to him on how to suspend the head teacher.

The note, which has been seen by ScillyToday, was sent by a senior human resources manager in Cornwall Council at lunchtime on May 18th, the day before the head teacher was suspended. The email was copied to eleven senior Cornwall Council staff, including one of the auditing team investigating Bryce Wilby.

Mr Hygate last night told a panel of three councillors that the information on suspending the head was gathered to assist the governors. But the governors and councillors appear to have been unaware of these discussions before the head was suspended.

In a statement, Penny Penn Howard, who attended last night’s meeting with Philip, says it was she who asked Cornwall Council for the HR advice that was emailed to Philip.

From Radio Scilly

Chairman Mike Hicks talks to Radio Scilly

They chose the mainland advisors instead of Scilly’s Council HR team. The information was requested to ensure that the senior officers attending the meeting with governors were “fully informed, legally secure” and in a position to properly advise.

The email also reveals that there were previous discussions in May with Cornwall Council legal staff about the removal of the head teacher from day-to-day duties. Cornwall staff advised delivering Bryce’s suspension letter in person and taking his keys, mobile, diary and laptop.

A Cornwall HR manager emailed Mr Hygate a draft suspension letter that she said was worded in a way that could be used by either Philip, his nominee or the Chairman of governors.

New governors’ chairman Ben Julian says he is unsure why a letter was provided which allowed the Council, and not the Governing body, to suspend the head, but Penny argues there are cases when a Council can do that.

She adds, “The Town Hall was not driving the suspension of the head teacher. We presented the facts of the initial findings of audit and advised the Governing Body of normal procedure under such circumstances. The Chair of Governors, after discussions with the Governing Body, suspended the head teacher.”

Ben Julian says he would be surprised if the Town Hall had not taken some sort of HR advice before the meeting.

Despite all the statements in the last twenty-four hours and an hour-long meeting last night, Mike Hicks says there remain unanswered questions about procedures. Councillors have not been given all of the facts, he says, and they want more information.

He understands why some islanders may feel there has been a ‘witch hunt’ and Mike says he will arrange an enquiry into Mr Wilby’s removal using independent, third party investigators not connected with Cornwall Council.

Council vice-chair Amanda Martin also backed that move. Amanda says councillors now need to look into the matter in order to give the public a satisfactory answer and the members need to reassure themselves that proper processes have been followed.

Amanda adds that members have always acted in good faith based on the information they have been given by officers.


17 Responses to Independent Enquiry Into Head’s Suspension Needed Says Council Chair

  1. Stavropol September 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Roger, here is the next council election vote winner:
    The Chief Executive Officer role is to be abolished.
    The next 4 most senior officers get a 10000 pound pay rise should they want to take a more demanding role to cover any void.
    Saving money and avoiding the king-pin situation we have at the moment.
    Any person wanting my vote has it with that type of suggestion.

  2. Roger P September 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    We should take a leaf out of Wiltshire County Council. To save money they simply got rid of their Chief Executive and run very happily without him.

  3. Bill Hiner September 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I worked for the government for over 40 years, and when anyone was suspended, they were always given a written explanation specifically outlining the reasons. Time was given for the suspended person to seek legal or union advice and support.
    I take no sides in this case as, like most others, I am relying on hearsay evidence.
    It is obvious however, that the handling of this whole episode has been ham-fisted and amateurish in extreme.
    I also take issue with onlookers who find credence in votes of confidence. Many of the finest leaders in both the public and private sectors are unpopular with the people they have to manage. 70% seems a high figure, but how many staff are we talking about and what jobs were they doing? If all the teachers had concerns, then one of them could have approached the Governors. If by “staff” we include caterers, cleaners, secretaries as well as teachers, then I’m afraid I can’t give too much credence to the vote.
    I only want fair play to be the winner.
    Lastly, petitions are not recognised in public sector areas as they can be easily manipulated as some staff can be pressured or encouraged into signing.

  4. Stuart September 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    As I understand it all but three of the governors are either teachers, friends of teachers or off islanders, now where do you think their interests lie.

    So 70% of staff had a grudge against the manager that was trying to down graded them to a more realistic pay grade in order to balance the books. Perhaps the same 70% would have had to have re-applied for their job if the school had achieved academy status? I don’t know.
    I know that while there are some very good teachers at the school they are in the minority.
    Getting back to the council officers involvement in this affair, it would seem only right and proper that those to be investigated i.e Mr Hygate and
    Ms Pen-Howard should be suspended while the investigation is taking place, just like they suspended Mr Wilby

    The long and short of it is

    • IanT September 3, 2012 at 9:35 am

      It is quite normal for a proportion of governors to be teachers and parents and, in a church school, foundation governors ensuring Christain ethos is upheld. In such a small community it is inevitable that the remainder would be ‘friends’ of other governors. From the governing board certain people are appointed in a ‘performance management’ role.These are the ones who should have been aware of any problems with any teacher, including the head, and taken appropriate action.

  5. Martin J September 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    You make a good point Todd. That’s exactly what they did at the school for an investigation to take place.

  6. Stavropol September 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Great article, begs the question who controls a council CEO, if it isn’t the councillors, it must be the CEO themselves. It seems councillors are afraid to question CEO’s who have experience but not votes on their side. Now that isn’t right and if the councillors cannot count on the officers giving them the utmost respect, the officers are not doing their job and should be removed.

  7. Todd Stevens September 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Surely suspensions preceed any inquiry?. You cant have a proper inquiry into somthing whilst those involved are still at work where they can potentially influence people or possibly tamper with evidence.

    ……and what happened to the inquiry in to public fear?

  8. Stuart September 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    In answer to jenny’s question…
    Why was the email addressed to Mr Hygate;
    Perhaps the sender hit the “reply” button

    Not difficult to prove either way, the clue will be in the email heading

  9. Jenny September 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    This is becoming like a Yes Prime Minister sketch, or is it House of Cards.
    The essence of this debate is an employment issue- The Head Master may or may not have committed acts unacceptable to a person in such a role. Straight forward enough- your HR dept deal with in, in a legal and timely manner.
    But not here. The Head of Finance is also the Head of the I.O.S Council HR dept and all credit to him, he made himself available at the HEART meeting and has tried to answer some questions in regard to the suspension of the Head Master. But how on earth can you expect a senior Council Officer, who is responsible for HR and therefore, employment issues in the I.O.S Council answer questions, when his colleagues go off behind his back asking advise from another Council’s HR dept. Speaks volumes of how his senior colleagues value their own HR dept. I can’t wait for the next episode of ‘Yes Senior Officier’ to be played out.

  10. KEN September 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Good points, will they be truefully answered.

  11. Stuart September 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Three things now need to happen…
    1. The Chief executive should be suspended from post while an investigation into his conduct is carried out
    2. The council should publish an apology to Bryce and his family and ask if he would be willing to come back and carry on the excellent work he was doing before his resignation
    3. The school governors should be replaced with a completely new set of people.

    Because at the end of the day we’ve yet to see any evidence of wrong doing on Bryce’s part.
    The council should be very ashamed.

    • Phil September 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      You may wish to remind yourself that 70% of the school staff have no confidence in his ability as Head teacher. Whether or not the Council or Governors acted acording to protocols, he lost the support of the vast majority of his staff and is unfit to be Head teacher. All heads in all schools alienate some staff as do bosses in business – it goes with the job. However to lose support of so many staff across all areas of staffing is remarkable.Given this, it is in nobody’s bests interests for him to return.The report by Mr Sullevan should be available soon and should shed light on how he discharged his duties of leadership. Perhaps it would be advisable to wait until this report is published before commenting on “the excellent work he was doing”.

    • IanT September 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

      I agree with items 1 and 2 wholeheartedly but item 3 is not that simple. It is not easy to get people to volunteer as governors and, therefore, they cannot just be ‘replaced’. Being a governor demands a lot of time and a certain knowledge of schooling plus, of course, they need to be CRB checked. I am surprised that in such a small community there are enough people willing to come forward as it is.

  12. Jenny September 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    If this saga did not impact on the lives of so many people, it would be commical. The I.O.S Council have their own HR dept, well paid and no doubt qualified and capable people who are employed to give advice and information on HR issues within the I.O.S Council. Why would a council officer or officers not ask their own HR dept to obtain information you require, unless there is a lack of trust between council depts.
    Ms PenHoward states it was she who contacted Cornwall HR- if this is so, then why was the e-mail correspondence sent to Mr Hygate?

  13. pat August 31, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    May i also add. alot of the councillors are not to blame for alot of what has gone on over here, but maybe in ignorance they have relied heavly on the officers who have not always given the right information….

  14. pat August 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    INTERESTING TIMES AHEAD.. ALL HANDLED VERY BADLY May i ask why do we need a chief exec and a deputy, when on the mainland alot of councils only have a chief exec, not only that do we need one at all, we could employ one on a part time basis from cornwall or devon to help the councillors when needed… this council needs to make cuts and i think it needs to start at the top. all the jobs within the council needs to be reviewed. we seem to go to cornwall council alot for advice etc. so why do we have so many staff …
    also we all need to lobby our councillors for change, we all know things are not right, but you;ll soon know who to vote for next year and we will all have a chance to vote for some new ones. SO COME ON … SOME OF YOU COUNCILLORS….. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF THE CLOUDS AND LISTEN TO YOUR VOTERS… DO THE RIGHT THING..
    Thank you to the councillors who are trying…..