Cowes Enterprise College opening delayed yet again

Parents do not receive the usual text or email, they discover the change to moving in date by looking at the College’s website

Cowes Enterprise College

The new £32m building at Cowes Enterprise College will now not open until September 2013.

Rumours have been circulating for a while that the opening of the much-delayed new school will be postponed yet again. These rumours have now proven to be true.

Parents with children at the school tell us that they are usually alerted to major announcements like this either by a letter sent to their home, or via text message to their mobile phones. Neither of these routes have been used for this major news. The parent who told us, found it on the school’s Website.

The letter signed by Rachael Fidler, Chair Cowes Pathfinder Trust, opens:

In line with our desire to keep everyone informed of developments concerning the new Cowes Enterprise College building, I would like to make you aware of an important decision.

Having carefully considered all the issues and having taken on board the views of the College staff, through the representation of their Professional Associations and Unions, we have reluctantly come to the decision that the College will not occupy the new building during this academic year (September 2012 to August 2013).

The letter somewhat mysteriously talks of “problems with the new building”, without going into detail.

Sources had told us that this would be the reason that would be used for the delay.

Pointedly the letter says, “We have been able to establish a positive partnership with the current Local Authority team who are fully committed”.

It ends by saying they hope to occupy the building “at the earliest opportunity”.

It is uncertain what will happen to ensure the current building, some of which has been shown to be in poor condition, as Alan Wells, Chair of Cowes Enterprise College Governing Body, refused to answer questions that On The Wight put to him.

The letter

16th November 2012: Move to College was delayed until Spring 2013.

21st November 2012: Officers suspended over delays.

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Saturday, 15th December, 2012 4:52pm



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

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. Island Monkey

    15.Dec.2012 8:25pm

    This has gone way beyond embarrassing, it’s a shambles, a fiasco. The Tory council leadership and the Tory party chairman (Alan Wells, Chair of governors) look to have made some really serious errors here? What are the chances of any of them taking some responsibility?

    How can a new school building be a year late? How could their revised opening estimates be so hopelessly optimistic every time they revise them?

    Why did David Pugh blame ‘wet weather’ for the original short delay and where did he get this ludicrous story from?

  2. alex davies

    15.Dec.2012 10:15pm

    I have two sons at Cowes College. I hae been worried about the School since it changed in 2011. I was told a few days ago by a school governor that I know that the Ofsted inspection last week found the school to have poor leadership because Mr Russell was a bad head and that the head of governors Alan Wells was also really poor. I was also told that the teaching was poor. I was told that the staff on the ofsted site for parents showed how very bad the school is rated by parents. I have thought for a very long time that my boys have been getting a bad deal, and this has proved it. Hopefully the ofsted report will get the head teacher kicked out and we’ll get someone who knows what his doing, rather than people who are only interested in themselves. I’m sure that if the Trust is kicked out and the school academy provider in the new year, they’ll be in that new school before easter – lets hope so

    • Jake_Gully

      16.Dec.2012 10:13am

      Alex,whilst I can understand your frustration – the school, its teachers and immediate staff don’t deserve to bare the brunt of the criticism. They are doing a good job in very difficult circumstances and trying hard to maintain morale despite being messed around left, right and centre.

      Actually this school has performed better than all others island secondarys, bar Christ the King (according to last SATS results),

      I would credit Jonathon Russel with standing up to the LEA and trust leadership and not being forced to move to early into a bodged school. I think he’s a good head in a very difficult position,

      No doubt there will be negative points within the forthcomming Ofsted report, but I have never seen or heard of anything quite so damning – perhaps better to wait and see the final report.

      • alex davies

        16.Dec.2012 4:24pm

        Hi Jake,

        I was told that the School had failed its OFSTED and would be put into special measures.

        It failed the OFSTED on poor governance, poor leadership and poor teaching

        It is highly likely that the school will be handed over to an academy

        Most teachers at the school are good, but are being lead poorly, That is down to poor governance (ie Alen Well’s and some of his cronies) and poor leadership from Jonathan Russel and his cronies.

        • jimmy smith

          16.Dec.2012 7:49pm

          Who is this Rachel Fiddler on the latest letter and how many governors and trustees are there? its like a cast of thousands that keeps getting rolled out. The letter is all over the place and now that further delays are planned is the new team about to suffer suspensions? I thought mr Love had a firm grip on this project. What do the students think?

        • Jake_Gully

          17.Dec.2012 3:41pm

          All fair points and it’s extremely unlikely that the published report will be glowing.

          It looks like Carisbrooke, Medina and Sandown are currently under consideration/warning for special measures following this year’s dire GCSE results. If Cowes were to follow that would be four out of six local Secondary schools.

          I doubt that all these heads are inept, and in my view this a consequence of schools reorganisation, badly implemented and resultant disruption and lowered morale.

          Will replacing a head teacher, board of governors, trust or imposing special measures provide a silver bullet to raise standards? Whilst undoubtedly summary justice is often popular and sometimes gratifying, I suspect imposing further change simply exacerbates a bad situation.

          Special Measures would be interesting – how much of an LEA do we actually still have (post reorganisation and recent suspensions)? Does it have sufficient resource and experience to help turn around these secondarys? Personally I’m 100% certain the schools themselves would do a better job.

          Believe me I have no issue with sacking the serially incompetent or negligent for their failings – I want to see my kids do well through this system. There are many times when I’d love to see the Brading stocks pressed back in to service – this could be a great mayday holiday treat and might even attract a few tourists back!

          But I don’t want to see a situation where heads are sacked like football managers on a 12-18 month basis. I don’t want to see schools led by the corporate professionals with a smooth public face and slippery shoulders. You need continuity and support to effect real change, to build effective teams and to develop a good school (learning environment in the modern parlance). None of us will ever be perfect and presumably even Headteacher’s might learn and improve with some constructive support and development.

  3. Jake_Gully

    15.Dec.2012 11:05pm

    Certainly not shocked by this news, as it was evident in July that the project was seriously behind and that the local authority was completely out of touch and ignorant of the reality on the ground.

    Despite frequent denials, impossibly optimistic press releases and the oft repeated mantra of bad weather delaying the works, it seems that finally this is getting the attention/scrutiny deserved/expected for such a large infrastrucuture investment.

    Little doubt that there are significant issues and the cost of rectifying these will undoubtedly have been made worse by attempting to rush the internal fittings and finishings. The key questions now are; what is the cost, how is fault apportioned between Design, Build & LA, and how much of the additional cost will we pick up locally.

    I’ll leave aside the consideration of blame, competence and negligence for the legally astute. I do however feel we are long overdue some basic honesty – time for an official statement based on fact.

  4. tulsevent

    16.Dec.2012 9:52am

    I feel sorry for Alan Wells on this issue as the way these particular projects are set up the Chair of Governors has no influence over the running of the building stage. The IWC should have put an experienced manager in place with agreed power to influence the developers. They always used to have a project manager to protect the council’s, school’s and students’ needs.

    • Barry Larry

      16.Dec.2012 6:46pm

      tulsevents, you may or may not be right on the chair of governors but ihave been told by member of staff at Cowes that the school have employed a highly paid advisor to act on their behalf for over two years. Perhaps this could be the problem?? I think we are only hearing half a story.

      • mole4wight

        16.Dec.2012 7:46pm

        Barry you are right, I was told keith Simmonds has earnt a fortune on working for the school as their expert advisor. George Brown,Wells and the Cowes conservative club were determined to protect themselves and find someone to blame. The school werent ready to go, ofsted report shows how bad they are.

        • If Keith Simmonds was employed by the goveners, I guess that he, as an Ofsted inspector, would be advising on the curriculum, which is his area of knowledge, not the building project as you suggest. It is an area in which he has not worked before.

          • Sorry please replace ‘goveners’ by ‘governors’.

          • Jake_Gully

            17.Dec.2012 12:43pm

            I understood that Mr Simmonds was consulting for CET on ICT matters (IT outsourcing to Gaia) and not directly involved in the building project. Though given his previous LEA post/experience he may hold a wider brief .

          • paul woodford

            17.Dec.2012 4:52pm

            Keith simmonds is still employded by the school, advising on all matters. He was also speaking to staff, unions, councillors, directors. I have heard him.

          • tulsevent

            17.Dec.2012 5:05pm

            ‘paul woodford’s comment not rated yet. Add your vote

            17.Dec.2012 4:52pm

            Keith simmonds is still employded by the school, advising on all matters. He was also speaking to staff, unions, councillors, directors. I have heard him.’

            Well there’s your ‘fall-guy’ then!

  5. Island Monkey

    16.Dec.2012 10:10am

    Alex, sorry to hear that. But I have to warn you, such sentiment will not please David Pugh. Remember he only recently told us never to talk down the Island’s ferry services or their cost. I assume any criticism of our schools will irk him in exactly the same way? Try and keep him happy eh, pretend all is well at Cowes – after all, it is almost the season of goodwill to all men.

  6. In the absence of a professional project manager who was signing off stage payments to the contractor?

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