Council And School Governors Made Mistakes But No Enforcement Being Taken Says Final DfE Report

The Five Islands School

The Five Islands School

The Education Secretary has issued his report into the Five Islands School and the processes surrounding the suspension of former head teacher, Bryce Wilby.

Michael Gove has written to both the Council and the school governing body to say that they did make procedural errors.

Chairman of Governors Ben Julian says one of the Secretary of State’s findings is that the governing body, “failed to discharge” some of its duties under the Education Act.

But the Department for Education recognises the difficult situation faced by the Council, the community and the school at the time, and there’ll be no enforcement action.

Governors received the report at the end of last week, although Ben doesn’t feel it will ever be released publicly.

The governors have broadly accepted its conclusion and Ben says they agree that they didn’t do everything correctly. He says it is ‘trite” to dismiss the findings as a “rap across the knuckles” as the points raised by the DfE were genuine and serious.

The final report takes into account the governors’ responses to an interim letter, issued in March, that outlined the actions that the DfE required the school to take, including the school becoming an academy within 18 months.

Ben says he hasn’t felt direct pressure from the Ministry, but says that being in Michael Gove’s in-tray has been a “hot, scary and uncomfortable place to be.”

With the government’s passion of academies, he says it’s no surprise that this final report advocates the school becoming one.

Ben is going to bring in experts to advise governors on the benefits of either staying under Council control, becoming an academy or becoming a co-operative school with mainland links.

There’ll be community consultation too but Ben says the final decision will be the governors’ alone and not the Council’s.

He says that process will start in January and the future school status should be decided in time for the start of the 2014/ 2015 school year.

Whichever option is pursued, Mr Julian says the governors’ priority has to be about improving education in school.

Ben claims that the DfE report recognises the work he’s undertaken in appointing a new Head Teacher and moves to restructure the governing body.

The DfE has suggested that the governing body should reduce the number of local parent or staff governors in favour of a skill-based body with more experts and mainland members, which would reduce potential for conflicts of interest within our small community.

The governing body has commissioned an independent review of governance and is expected to report soon.

The DfE report doesn’t go into specific allegations that led to former head Bryce Wilby’s suspension and Ben says he feels it’s a shame that “pertinent and significant” factual information appears not to have been considered.

But he added that the governors “don’t wish to divert their energies to a point-by-point rebuttal.”

In a statement, the Council say they will continue to work closely with the governing body and the Diocese to support the School, and will be providing the Minister with a written report outlining the school improvement measures put in place, as endorsed by Ofsted.

Michael Gove signed off his letter to the governing body stating that he’s monitoring developments.

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