Cowes Enterprise College: Chair of Governors called to ‘fall on his sword’ by parents (updated)

Parents provide both passionate and forceful feedback following the Ofsted report placing the College in Special Measures. External Improvement Partner explains route to improvement.

back-of-heads-meeting-alan-stanton

On The Wight were unable to attend a public meeting following the Ofsted report release, however we approached Parent Council member, Dave Miller, who obliged by providing the summary below, in his own words. Ed


Seating was quickly increased to accommodate perhaps 300-400 attendees in the main hall at Cowes Enterprise College (CEC) last evening as the local community gathered to hear of improvement plans at the College, and have the opportunity to offer their feedback.

In a back-to-basics format, with no PowerPoint presentation nor microphone in sight, the Local Authority (LA) Chief Executive, Steve Beynon, facilitated and clarified the purpose of the meeting. Praise was expressed for students at the College, based on feedback from the Lead Ofsted Inspector, noting that students were polite and articulate. The role of the LA, following the inspection, was explained and relevant parties facing the audience were introduced.

College Improvement Partner being appointed
In addition to the Chair of Governors, Alan Wells, the Chair of the Cowes Pathfinder Trust, Rachael Fidler, and the Acting Principal, James Stewart, was Kent-based Educationalist and Improvement Partner, Nigel Blackburn. The engagement of the Kent-based team apparently resulted from enquiries made by the Local Authority, with the team judged to have a track record of supporting schools out of Special Measures, and having available capacity.

A brief summary (‘highlights’ is probably an inappropriate term) of the Ofsted Report was provided by the Chair of Governors, and it was pointed out that the inspection report noted the governing body as one of its strengths. The Chair of the Cowes Pathfinder Trust majored on the desire to “Move things forward”.

The Acting Principal gave a passionate address, clearly recognising the core need to strengthen the educational provision to meet the needs of the students, particularly around curriculum, and ‘learning and teaching’.

Improvement Partner
Finally the engaged Improvement Partner gave a brief résumé of his educational background both as a headteacher of a three-times Outstanding school, Ofsted Inspector, and leading Improvement Teams to support other schools.

Eight improvement ‘strands’ were identified, including increasing the number of outstanding lessons, the curriculum ‘diet vs. offer’, and an ‘Every lesson counts’ programme. There was cautionary advice that improvement was ‘not cheap, in time or resource’.

It was recognised that support to the college should be targeted to support the College to develop enhanced capability to allow onward improvement following a period of external support.

Floor opened for questions
After that thirty-minute session, questions were taken from the patient and attentive audience.

Initial questioning sought information on timescales for improvement. Whilst such timescales were case-specific, a positive example cited by the Improvement Partner was a school going from Special Measures to Good (two Ofsted categories) within 14 months.

A less favourable case was a school in Special Measures for four years. Ofsted will now undertake further monitoring inspections at the College, with potentially two visits between now and the end of the academic year.

Interestingly at this point, when the Improvement Partner was asked how long the team were engaged for he looked to the Trust and Governor representation, and an answer appeared to be to the summer term (initially at least) – somewhat shorter than the likely time to exit Special Measures.

Calls for resignations
Following some year-group specific questions, some tougher challenges came from the floor, questioning why the Local Authority had not used its power of intervention to remove the trust or governing body. Amid significant, but not universal, support from the floor there were calls for the Chair of Governors to “fall on his sword like the past principal”.

In response, another speaker expressed support for the governing body, and the need for stability for the College, noting the Ofsted-cited strength. This view also received significant support, whilst others present called for the chairs of the trust and governing body to hang their heads in shame, and questioned why action had not been taken before the Ofsted inspection if they were aware of inadequacies.

The response from the trust was that the situation was being ‘performance managed’ within the bounds of employment legislation, but that things could now progress more quickly.

Teaching concerns
On the core educational front, genuine parental concerns were expressed with the available curriculum, and delivery. Cases of students having had seven maths teachers over a year were cited alongside concerns over teachers having to teach less-familiar subjects.

Sufficiency of teaching staff was also a common concern, with students on occasions having multiple sessions per day in the LRC (Learning Resource Centre), undertaking ‘independent learning’. The subject of teachers having to mange some disruptive behaviour in the classroom, at the expense of quality teaching, was also a cited issue.

To his credit the acting principal recognised difficulties, and vowed to do everything he could to resolve issues, seek to improve communications, and would meet parents for any individual issues.

It was widely recognised that this was a difficult time for teachers and staff and that morale had been impacted since the inspection.

Impact of School reorganisation
More than one question was raised in relation to the contribution from the school reorganisation from three-tier to two-tier, and questioning why the Ofsted rating was now so much lower than the predecessor high school, and indeed middle schools. Previous claims that a switch to two-tier would encourage mainland teachers to apply for Island teaching vacancies were also recalled.

The reduced number of members within the Senior Leadership Team was questioned, challenging how the college could undertake all the cited improvement measures.

Financial Support
Upon clear questioning over the resourcing required, the chair of governors provided an assurance that the College had the funds to return to ‘Good’ in 14 months.

Further, the terms ‘back-up’ and ‘top-up’ from the Local Authority were used.

New Building
Following good separation of the issues of the Ofsted inspection, and the new build, a question arose that there was a suggestion that the new building would not be available for September 2013.

The Chief Executive read out a prepared statement from the relevant director advising that, following commissioned independent authorities’ reports, there were issues that remained to be resolved and that no transition date could be committed to.

Update: Below is the prepared statement that Steve Beynon read out at the meeting:

As has been widely reported, we are not currently in a position to be able to confirm when the new building will be complete.

The Council has undertaken its own detailed inspection of the site on a room by room basis. In addition, we have brought in both Mechanical and Electrical and Architectural experts to investigate areas of specific concern. A significant number of defects and outstanding items of work have been identified that must be rectified before the building can be occupied for teaching purposes.

The Council’s inspection reports together with the reports from the two independent experts have been provided to the main contractor. We are now working with them to identify a practical programme for addressing the identified issues. We will be able to provide a proposed completion date only when we are satisfied with the remedial programme proposed by the main contractor.

In response to a follow-on question he advised that he was not able to respond as to whether the prime contractor had gone bankrupt.

In summary
Clearly uncomfortable for some, but a useful session for parents to have gained some understanding of the current situation, the plans to ‘move things forward’, and an opportunity to be heard.

Dave Miller (CEC Parent Council member & co-opted Educational representative on Scrutiny Panel)

Feedback to the Parent Council welcome via the clerk, or I am happy to receive input at WightPGR@live.co.uk

Image: In place of having a photo from the meeting, we’ve used this one by Alan Stanton under CC BY 2.0 to accompany the report.

Friday, 25th January, 2013 9:27am

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Filed under: Cowes, Education, Isle of Wight News, Ofsted reports, Top story

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24 Comments on "Cowes Enterprise College: Chair of Governors called to ‘fall on his sword’ by parents (updated)"

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AJG
“In response to a follow-on question he advised that he was not able to respond as to whether the prime contractor had gone bankrupt.” You what now?! How clueless is Steve Beynon? To me this man is a complete and utter joke. How can he not even be able to answer the question of whether the prime contractor on this Cowes omni-shambles has gone out of business?… Read more »
pallance
Why does it always take an Ofsted report for people in charge of educational establishments to realise that they have got it wrong? The Dfe states there are 3 core aims for School governors 1. Setting vision, ethos and strategic direction, engaging stakeholders, and ensuring statutory duties are met. 2. Holding heads to account for teaching, achievement, behavior and safety; challenging and strengthening leadership; contributing to school… Read more »
Billy Builder

As it would appear that the Council is able to give statements to the public regarding their view of the current status of the Cowes school buildng, I take it that they would be more than happy for the main contractor Pihl to publish their view, which I believe would be radically different

Sally Perry

The statement read out by Steve Beynon has now been added to the report above.

Lester

What chance of seeing those reports under the Freedom of Information Act? – My money’s on “commercially sensitive”.

Sarah Karr-Shtick
Congratulations are due to all of the ‘officials’ at last night’s meeting. How impressive that no one from the Council, Trust or Governors, took it upon themselves to arrange either to pull together a presentation or even bring a microphone or two. Just right. I’m sure that none of the 400+ parents who turned up to learn how the education of their children is being so well… Read more »
Major Blunder
It’s just such a shame that things have reached this low. Clearly and by their own admission the staff are de-moralised, how on earth did things get to this stage. If they are admitting to this how can any of them be expected to inspire the children? The main thing that came out of the meeting for me was that the talk was more about teaching the… Read more »
paul woodford
Dave, @’In response, another speaker expressed support for the governing body, and the need for stability for the College, noting the Ofsted-cited strength. This view also received significant support, whilst others present called for the chairs of the trust and governing body to hang their heads in shame, and questioned why action had not been taken before the Ofsted inspection if they were aware of inadequacies’. May… Read more »
Major Blunder

All I can really add is what the first paragraph of page 3 the Ofsted report makes clear ‘the persons responsbile for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the nescessary improvement in the school’ Why does Mr Beynon think otherwise?

girloncliff
Forget the politics (no NOT really: it is a reality that this sort of thing will happen again because of other policies/decisions on the Island by this arrogant bunch @ County Hall) but what of this “lost” and let down group of polite youngsters. Other than parents and dedicated front-line staff, who will support them and explain at job/fe/uni interviews,etc,who, in a very competitive market, was responsible… Read more »
Billy Builder
I is not just the chair of Governors that needs to fall on his sword here, but all those people that are directly or indirectly responsible for this failure. This should include Rachel Fiddler from the Trust, Alan Wells and Keith Simmon from the Governors, Steve Beynon, Stuart Love and Ian Anderson from the Council officers, and all council members associated with education and childrens services. What… Read more »
Wight Knight
Hi Billy People have whistle blown about bullying and intimidation that goes on in the Council. The inner circle who are close to Beynon and Pugh are protected despite what they do to many many staff. There is a culture of bullying and fear that runs throughout the Council from the top down. People openly talk about which managers bully staff, shout at them, make them cry,… Read more »
Morgan B.
This was quite a disappointing meeting by the sounds of things. I myself wasn’t there, but it sounds like i didn’t need to be to get the idea that it was a waste of time. Its already been pointed out that Alan Wells and Steve Bynon need to be removed, and replaced with more efficient members. What surprised me though, was that now the School building has… Read more »
pallance
In answer to Morgan B, if as we have been told, the ‘state of the art’ roof leaks, then it is likely to have been leaking during the wettest spell last spring, when the roof is on, first fix electrics would have been done, these would be compromised by being exposed to water ingress and would need to be inspected, that would necessitate removing interior cladding and… Read more »
Billy Builder

Interestingly the independant experts employed by the Council to uphold their position are a firm of general architects from Lymmington. Obviously they will know more about the schools Bauder roof than the Bauder engineers that have warrentied it. Likewise with the M

biggmarket

Err not entirely relevant I know but am I the only one to note that Cowes Enterprise College scored the second highest percentage of GCSEs A to C in 5 subjects amongst state run Island Schools. This despite being put in special measures.

Quite what this says about the Education of Students here is food for thought.

Wightwitch
One point that doesn’t appear to be in the above report was Alan Wells admitting that taking on Mr Russell as the head was a big mistake – Mr Wells along with other Governors and The Trust sold him to us as being the best things since sliced bread – now they are saying that they made a huge mistake …….. not the only one by all… Read more »
pallance
Totally agree WW. Mr Stewart has a lot of bottle to take on this poisoned chalice and I personally wish him all the luck in the world – He is gonna need it, with the god awful Governors and IW Council ‘helping’him. I have known Mr Stewart personally and he is a good teacher and leader, he must have been very frustrated working under the ex-principle, he… Read more »
sandt

Biggmarket very good point. Will be interesting to see the results of the Ofsted report following “visit” to Sandown Bay Academy two weeks ago.

Tom Traveller

From http://www.companiesintheuk.co.uk/ltd/pihl-uk it would appear that PIHL UK has begun steps to dissolve the company – First notification of strike-off action in London Gazette (Section 652) was filed on 4th Jan 2013. Surely this was known about?

DH

A £150k p.a. Chief Executive had no idea of this? Words fail me…

Sally Perry

Tom Traveller, this strike-off was cancelled on 7th January, it more than likely to do with late filing of accounts and is quite a common procedure.

As has been pointed out by Jake Gully previously, the company state in their year annual accounts for 2010-11 that they do intend to wind up the company and CEC is their last project.

Billy Builder
Tom Traveller, Whilst your post regarding Pihls decision to cease trading in the UK is interesting I do not beleive that it has anything to do with the delivery of the Cowes Pathfinder project and will have little affect going forward, as contract liabilities for Cowes will revert to the parent company who are very large civil engineering contractor employing 3000 people. As I have said previously… Read more »
deckers
Unfortunately I could not go to the meeting, but appears from the comments I’ve seen that like most parents would have felt quite miffed about the lack of accountability by some very highly paid people. Education in secondary schools is not a dress rehearsal, it counts. I feel that our children (mine being currently in years 7 & 8) have lost out due a vast majority of… Read more »