Monday 21 December 2015

UPDATE: Sudbury School situation raises wider issues

Unions at Sudbury Primary School report that there was standing room only when they held a meeting last week for parents to discuss the way forward for the school after the suspension of its headteacher. They say that Sudbury teachers attended despite the threat of disciplinary action if they did so.
The unions said:
Several staff made it clear that, through all of this, their priority was the education and care of the children. Parent and union speakers said that without the staff the children would not be doing as well as they are.
The meeting was reminded by an emotional parent that it was the children who were the reason there was a school and we had to get to the bottom of what was going on for them. It was pointed out that if the school had still been with the local authority instead of being an academy, Brent would have stepped in and taken prompt action to deal with the situation.
Parents were angry that it had to be down to the unions to call such a meeting and felt the governors had kept them in the dark. It was revealed that a new Chair of Governors Ian Phillips, had just been put in place. The Ofsted report is due imminently after the inspection which took place after the Headteacher was suspended. The section on management of the school should make interesting reading.
The headteacher remains suspended while an independent investigation takes place. As stated in earlier coverage suspension this a neutral act to allow the investigation of allegations to proceed. 

However, the unions say that a petition for parents calling on the headteacher to 'do the right thing and resign' has been started: 'Staff remain united and determined but if this does not happen they will be taking action in the Spring term.'

 The situation is complicated by the fact that the Sudbury Primary School Academy Trust is a company limited by guarantee under the Companies Act 2006.  A large school with a budget of £9m plus it comes under the Education Funding Agency/DfE rather than the local authority, Brent Council. The Regional Schools Commissioner acts for the Secretary of State regarding academies and free schools but he does not appear to have intervened in this case so far, although there are provisions for intervention in the funding agreement LINK and the powers of the RSC.

The headteacher of Sudbury Primary School is the company's Chief Executive Officer and it appears from the last company report that all the governors are also Trustees of the company. The company secretary is Irfan Khan. LINK

At the time of the last annual report that I can find (for the period ending August 2014) in addition to the headteacher, chair and vice chair, there were 8 parent governors, 4 community governors and 3 staff governors on the Board of Trustees.

The case clearly raises wider issues regarding academies (and free schools) of accountability, local democratic representation, powers of intervention and governance.


The Kilburn Times LINK is reporting that Ian Phillips, Chair of Govers at Finchley's Woodhouse College has been appointed to the Sudbury governors on the recoemmndation of the DfE.

Chair of Governors, Bob Wharton, a former Lead Member for Children and Schools when Lib Dems formed a coalition with Brent Tories to run Brent Council, welcomed the appointment and said Phillips had made a good impression on staff.

The DfE said, 'We take very seriously any allegationb that children's education is being put at risk. We are continuing to work with the academy trust to strengthem governance. We recommended they (the school)  request support from other experienced governors.'

Jean Roberts, NUT, pointed out that if Sudbury had been an LA school they would have come in and taken control of the situation. It had only got to ths stage because it was an academy and being dealt with by the DfE. She added that this was why the education unions are against academies.

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