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.


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