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Friday, 16 April 2021 07:14

The Disgraceful Behaviour of the Governors of Fairview Primary School (Part Two)

 I have been given correspondence through an FOI request to Medway Council that shreds the competence and integrity of the Governing Body (GB) of Fairview Community Primary School. It shows that this would have been the central problem with the Fairview application to become an academy, as part of the Westbrook Trust, last year.

This is best illustrated by the report of a School Challenge and Improvement Visit in March 2020, conducted by a Medway Council officer, although the issues recur in various emails. You will find the full report here, with a major excerpt below but, in summary, a meeting with 17 members of staff raised multiple issues about relationships between them and governors. These demonstrated that the GB was failing them, the school and the local community on all counts.

Other correspondence covers matters such as conflicts of interest, failure to follow procedures to the extent that the Chairman was wrongly elected at a meeting that was improperly convened, and evidence of members of the GB trying to force the school to join the Westbrook Trust, all with an evident complete lack of interest in the views of staff and the local community. I have never before come across such a siege mentality, arrogance and level of incompetence as in the Fairview governing body. The continued failure to communicate with parents as promised emphasises this failure.  

Remarkably, the school appears to continue to operate successfully and smoothly, run by its three leaders from the Compass Partnership of Schools, independently of the Governing Body, although all three are scheduled to leave in the summer when the Compass contract expires. 

The correspondence I have been sent covers a period from Jun 2018, shortly after the previous controversial headteacher left the school in mid-term, to the end of March 2020.

The issues raised by the staff, documented below, at a Meeting in March 2000 and shared with the Chair of Governors appears to have had no effect whatever on the GB, which continues to fail in communicating with parents and staff, underlying this siege mentality. This is in spite of a promise to the contrary, as I have shown in my previous article. 

 I have previously described the GB as having an arrogant approach, but this 'note' takes it beyond anything I could imagine, except that there is further documented evidence referred to below. This is a Governing Body not fit for purpose, except there appears to be no way remove its members according to regulations. 

Notes on issues raised by Fairview staff
through their questions to the Local Authority:

Issue: Concerned, feel marginalised and under represented on the GB - MARGINALISED

Issue: Aggrieved that they have not been listened to - complete DISREGARD FOR PROFESSIONAL VOICE

Issue: Lack of education expertise and neutrality of professional voice on the GB: SUSPICIOUS OF GB MOTIVES

Issue: They don't understand the Governors' rationale - nor believe it is the right one for the school - to go with TWBT: INACCURATE ASSESSMENT OF CAPACITY TO DELIVER

Issue: They don't know some of the governors or what they stand for: MISTRUST

Issue: They don't appreciate the 'divide and conquer' approach to speaking with Govs 1:1 that has been offered - are at a loss as to why you haven't spoken with them personally as a group:  DIVISIVE

Issue: The bullish nature of some of the govs has made them fear for their job, if they were to speak against the GB and then put themselves at risk: FEAR INDUCING

Issue: They don't understand the lack of transparency between Govs, professionals, community: LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Issue: They feel unclear about the academisation process: UNINFORMED

Issue: They feel taken for granted - that they will work regardless of who GB appoint: UNDER VALUED

Issue: Their experience of the school visits to TWBT did not give evidence of anything better than they already have through Compass: QUESTIONABLE EVIDENCE BASE

Note: TWBT refers to The Westbrook Trust

I am unable to report some of the other items as they relate to the behaviour of individual members of the Governing Body. However:

Governing Body Membership
Meeting of 30th January
It is reported that this meeting was not convened according to the regulations as Governors were in breach of their duty to include and inform all Governors of meetings, including the headteacher. As such the meeting was void and the election of Mr Chris Gilbert as Chair was invalid, although he subsequently carried out actions in that role. I don’t at present know when the situation was regularised. Mr Gilbert succeeded Kate Allen, who probably stepped down because of a conflict of interest, her husband being the CEO of The Westbrook Trust and reported to have been an unsuccessful candidate as Head of Fairview, on the previous occasion.

The only current member of the School Leadership Team on the GB is the School Business Manager, although there is a classroom teacher as a staff governor, so there is no educational input from the senior staff at the school; surely a massive weakness in their ability to operate properly in the interests of the school, and one strongly picked up by staff  in the document above.  The headteacher of Snodland Primary School is also a governor, appointed by Medway Council and with children at the school, although also connected through Mr Allen, CEO of Westbrook Trust who is a governor at her school. 

There are numerous references to the lack of dialogue between the GB, its Chair, and the staff, with a bizarre attempt last year for individual governors to meet teachers on a 1:1 basis, described by staff as ‘divide and conquer’. It is also reported that a similar scheme was to be made available to parents, but no evidence has been seen of this. The isolation of governors can still be seen in their failure to honour the promise to provide information to parents about the proposed academisation with The Westbrook Trust.

Headteacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner
A letter sent on behalf of Medway Council includes the following:

Inconsistencies and lack of transparency of the process, the timings of and declarations of self-interest, the sequence of chairing of the GB and honesty, the scoring of the MATS, the mixed messages to name a few issues, are all riddled with error and have fuelled the unpalatable situation. And this is quite apart from the bullish attitudes that have characterised the delivery of messages, from what the school staff have given testament to and parents have unleashed on social media.

In short, the few adults within the whole governing body at Fairview that are forcing through one MAT over another are doing so with regard to neither the local professional community voice nor the parent community. And of course, I realise that the process relies solely upon the assumption that a governing body actually knows and represents those two essential local communities, but when that isn’t true, then there doesn’t seem to be any systematic proper check that would stall the progress of false representation.

It is hardly surprising that Medway Council is quoted in the RSC decision to reject the academy application, recording that  'It was noted that the LA had formally raised concerns surrounding the governing body’s decision making, specifically around transparency and community engagement. Members raised concerns that the governing body was at odds with the school community. The RSC was minded to ask the LA to work with the school to address the concerns'. Now there is a challenge for the Council!

Fairview Primary School
The amazing thing is that the school appears to be running fairly smoothly in spite of all this turmoil with the GB. I have heard nothing but appreciation of the work of the three senior staff, Executive Head, Headteacher, and Deputy Headteacher, who conduct themselves professionally, are all employees of the Compass Partnership, and are all in line to leave at the end of term, when the Compass contract expires. Ofsted were impressed with the leadership team when they inspected the school two years ago: 'The leadership team has maintained the good quality of education in the school since the last inspection. Numerous changes in staffing, including at leadership level, have led to an unsettled time for the school during the past few years. However, you and your co-headteachers have swiftly re-established a sense of purpose and direction in the past year. As a result, staff morale has improved and parental confidence in the school is returning'.  

Fairview has been a popular primary school, at three forms of entry one of the largest in Medway, so should be an attractive proposition for a new headteacher, and the school remains full in all year groups (according to the October 2020 census (the Reception Year had 74 children in October, but this will have built up subsequently as in previous years).

One final puzzle. Who will show candidates for the headship around the school?  Surely it won't be any of the three Compass leaders who are shortly to lose their placements in the school, although I am sure they would be professional? How will the future governance and status be explained to them?   

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 April 2021 07:00


  • Comment Link Wednesday, 21 April 2021 20:35 posted by Year 2 parent

    In my view the governors ought to be ashamed of themselves. The should put the school on an even keel and then resign. PETER: But are they capable of the first, as they set about appointing headteacher agreeable to them?

  • Comment Link Monday, 19 April 2021 07:30 posted by Heather

    Congratulations Peter, on once again forcing these issues out into the open. Without you, this would have simply have gone through on the nod.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 17 April 2021 13:14 posted by Fed Up Frustrated Parent

    So if the governors are clearly the fundamental
    Problem here - why does it feel as if nothing can be done to stop them ruining our beloved school?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 17 April 2021 12:31 posted by Cynical Parent

    Can we expect to see an application from Snodland Primary for the headship?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 17 April 2021 11:52 posted by Amanda

    As a pparent, I can confirm that I was offered a 1:1 virtual meeting with 2 governors and a member of the consultancy that the GB brought in to oversee the academisation process, in the latter half of last year. PETER: Thank you. Nothing like overkill!

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