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.

19 Responses to Department For Education Launch Investigation Into Head’s Suspension

  1. Pat Hayden September 21, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Pat Hicks – you are absolutely right, couldn’t agree more.

  2. pat Hicks September 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Sorry Pat for any confusion…. i’ll sign my full name in future
    will be glad when this is all sorted properly. i just want this community to pull together, and start working together again. its been dIvided for to long.

  3. Pat Hayden September 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Please don’t think I was criticising anything you say – I just want to stop people coming up to me and saying “saw your comments on …” when they are your comments and not mine.

  4. pat September 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    pat I did not say i did not welcome the DFE’S investigation. i do welcome it. what i did say is i want our council to carry on running these islands when things get sorted. as i dont think cornwall would do any better.

  5. sarah September 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    If everything has been conducted honestly by the LEA they should have nothing to hide so why have the Councillors been told not to say anything and there is obviously enough evidence to warrant an independent inquiry the truth will come out and some of the people { they know who they are ) should hang their heads in shame

  6. Pat Hayden September 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    “Pat” above is not me!
    I welcome the DFE’s investigation – not before time!

  7. Todd Stevens September 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    This is a wake up call for Mike Hicks and any other councillors that have been living in a cheif officers protective bubble, kept in the dark and totally oblivious to whats really been going on all around them. Lets hope the alarm bells are finnally ringing.

    This community cannot repair until our Gollum has been expelled.

  8. Stuart September 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I spoke to a councillor today and expressed my dismay at how incompetent the council have been in allowing this to happen and he told me that they have been told to “not comment” on the subject.
    So our elected representatives, the people we have chosen to represent us at council have been forbidden to speak on the subject……..unbelievable!
    One has to ask “who has the power to tell them to keep their mouths shut?

    Listening to Mrs Wilby on the radio this morning was an eye opener indeed and I look forward to hearing Mr Wilby’s side of the story.
    An investigation that has only taken facts from one side is not an investigation its partisan propergander at best, a kangaroo court at worst.
    I full endorse the DFE’s investigation into this affair and I think the conclusion will confirm everything we already thought we knew about our council. It will also speed up the schools conversion to Academy status which would probably be in the best interests of the school and the children as it would remove the school from council control.

    I hope Armando Iannucci has been following this as it could provide enough material for a show in it’s own right

  9. pat September 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    And i dont think cornwall council should take over the running of these islands. they have got there own problems. we just need to sort ours out , and then hopefully people will settle down again and we will be a better community.

  10. Pat September 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Yes its not just about the school as alot of people have been saying. far FAR deeper than that. Start from the top, needs a good clean out.. and then Hope fully this council will become stronger when this is all sorted.

  11. Fran Grottick September 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    My comment refers to the suggestion that our Governance should move to Cornwall.
    We would be a very small fish in a very big pond.

  12. Stavropol September 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I’ve watched with dismay how this plot has thickened over the months. How on earth can one of the smallest councils in the land attract the attention of the national government?
    There is is obviously enough ‘smoke’ to signal a fire and this could now lead to increased scrutiny of council proceedures and who knows where that will end. Removal of power etc etc.
    The council offers should be bracing themselves for a big wake up call and wholesale change, something they only have themselves to blame for

  13. Stuart September 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    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. 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

    Inadequate is an understatement!
    The senior council officers have run rings round you

  14. Fran Grottick September 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Be careful what you wish for.Yes, we need change,but
    is that the way forward?

  15. Tracy September 19, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Focussing on the children’s education and opportunities is what the real issue is here. We have a wonderful school with dedicated members of staff and that is what it has to be about once again, forget about game plans!
    We are such a fractured community at the moment, with very little trust amongst ourselves.
    I hope the DfE investigation will look into ALL aspects of the school!

    • jonnyM September 19, 2012 at 11:53 am

      IS that the real issue Tracy? The children have a wonderful new school, with excellent staff-to-pupil ratio and, as you say, very dedicated teachers. Each pupil has one of the highest spends-per-head of any non-private school in the UK. They will do well whatever happens.

      People need to stop hiding behind the children. The real issue is, and always has been, how the suspension and investigation into the head teacher was carried out as this impacts everyone on these islands.

      • Tracy September 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm

        I’m not hiding behind the children. They are the reason we have a school!
        I agree about the investigation in to Bryce Wilby’s suspension and investigation, the truth needs to come to light. That is not the only issue over here. There are issues with the council (and probably other areas) but everything has been mashed together and spills out in to all areas of island life.
        I hope ALL the issues are sorted and our community can heal again but NOT all the issues lie within the school, that’s the one that the media picked up on and ran away with.

  16. Todd Stevens September 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Oh how funny. So glad to see they are not going to take this lying down. What- Wilby- Wilby! : )

  17. Ruth September 19, 2012 at 10:39 am

    What a fiasco
    It is now time to let Cornwall take control of council