Department For Education Launch Investigation Into Head’s Suspension

The Five Islands School

There will be a Department for Education investigation into the suspension of the head teacher of the Five Islands School.

The report will focus on the way the Isles of Scilly Council and Cornwall Council’s auditing team handled allegations of financial impropriety, which led to the suspension of Bryce Wilby.

Michael Gove’s ministry will go ahead with the review into recent events here, following letters from MP Andrew George and the Bishop Of Truro, Tim Thornton, who voiced concerns over the process.

In a statement to Radio Scilly news, Bishop Tim said: “In the light of so many allegations and so much distrust, it is important to clarify what has actually happened in order to move forward and to allow the School to develop”. He wants the school to focus again on the education of the children.

Mr George says the DfE team have been preparing the groundwork for the enquiry during the Parliamentary recess.

From Radio Scilly

Maria Wilby, wife of suspended head teacher Bryce, spoke to Radio Scilly

Council Chairman Mike Hicks has suggested previously that he would arrange a third-party review. He accepts there’ll now be scrutiny of the Council at the highest level and says it is upsetting that it has got to this point.

The islands’ Council engaged Cornwall Council auditors to investigate allegations of financial impropriety. Their report is expected to be presented at the full Council meeting on the 27th September, but head teacher Bryce Wilby says he hasn’t been given a chance to answer the allegations made against him.

Correspondence between his team and the auditor indicate that Bryce told investigators that he wanted to meet them and address the points raised. But yesterday a Cornwall Council officer emailed to say their investigation was complete and there was no need for Mr WIlby to talk with them.

The spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “The investigation has now been completed and all matters of significance have been reported to the Isle of Scilly Council (sic). Any questions in relation to the investigation are a matter for the Isles of Scilly Council.”

Bryce’s wife Maria says it is “completely unfair” that Bryce has’t been given a chance to respond and she wants justice for her husband. She wants the Council, as the people who commissioned the auditors report, to let Bryce answer questions.

“After all the things that have been put out into the press,” she says, “the least they can do is give him a fair opportunity to be heard.”

Council Chairman Mike Hicks says that he had not seen anything indicating that the report was finished and was under the impression that Bryce Wilby had been given the opportunity to be interviewed and give his explanation of events.

Mike says members have been “kept in the dark” and he’s keen to “get to the bottom of this.” He says it makes the Council look inadequate and apologised for that.

Maria doesn’t believe her husband was responsible for inappropriate images found on his laptop and says there is “absolutely no doubt in my mind” the images were not placed on the computer by her husband. The issue of the downloaded images was not given as the reason for the head teacher’s suspension in May.

She maintains that Bryce can answer every allegation of financial impropriety made against him. Money spent at Hell Bay Hotel, she says, was in fact a thank-you weekend gift given by the governors. And Maria says a drinks bill at St Martin’s Hotel was an end-of-year leaving event arranged with the PTA for staff.

With regard to payments that can’t be traced by auditors, Maria says she’s surprised that, if they occurred over such a long period, nobody chased Bryce up about paperwork.

She says that, despite the Council’s and governors’ statements, Bryce is still employed by the authority and is on the payroll until the end of the Christmas term. She says his offer to leave at the end of August was rejected by the authority because they didn’t agree his terms, so his standard employment contract is still in place.

That means he is unable to speak to media.

Councillor David Pearson made a statement about Bryce Wilby’s resignation earlier this month in the belief that Bryce left employment on August 31st.

The Council press office has declined to answer our questions or comment on this.

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