Jacqueline Gazzard shares this statement on behalf of the former Governing Body team of Sandown Bay Academy. Ed
The Governors of Sandown Bay Academy were surprised to see the posts on various Island Media saying that they had been “sacked”, as nobody from Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) Head Office had had the courtesy to notify them of that fact; although how you can sack somebody who gives their time on an unpaid voluntary basis is an interesting conundrum.
Ironically, this is a very obvious example of the unprofessional and inept behaviour that the Governors have come to expect from AET. Previously, Governors were restricted by AET as to what they could say in public about the school and AET, however as most of the Governors are now former Governors they consider themselves to be released from that obligation.
Dispute over financial position
There has been much in the media about AET making unreasonable demands for dramatic cuts to Sandown Bay Academy’s budgets far in excess of the cuts required to balance the books. Although denied by AET, these claims are true, in January 2017 the school was told to reduce its salary costs by £700,000, and in February to cut total costs by £850,000.
The Head and Governors repeatedly pushed back on this and AET agreed to a reduction of £430,000, and then signed off on a restructuring cut of £405,000. However, on the day of the announcement of the restructure the school was told that AET had again changed their mind and imposed cuts of £850,000, which we continued to oppose until we were ‘sacked’.
U-turn by AET after media attention
It was only after the issue went into the public domain through the Lead Member for Education on the Isle of Wight Council, and after criticism of AET following a visit to the school from a senior official from the Department of Education, that AET backed off the excessive budget cuts.
We are concerned that the removal of Governors is likely to be the prelude to AET re-instating these savage cuts to the budgets at the Bay Academy to bail out its deficits elsewhere in the group’s finances.
This is the most obvious and recent example of a lack of clarity, honesty and efficiency by AET towards the school, senior leadership team and governors.
Remove AET from Sandown Bay Academy
The former Governors of Sandown Bay Academy wish to go on public record that we unanimously support Sandown Bay Academy being removed from the mismanagement of AET.
AET refute allegations
In response to the statement made by former Governors, AET have provided this response below. Ed
The statement from Sandown Bay Governors contains a number of elements which are completely untrue.
It is not correct to say that AET sacked Governors and announced this to the media without having contacted them. It is, however, correct that we had embarked on a process to strengthen the governance at Sandown Bay. We recognised this would involve careful and private discussions with the Chair and with individual Governors to talk through the reasons for this and the proposed plans, before any arrangements would be finalised or formally announced. AET made no announcement to media of its plans, and we were therefore very surprised to be contacted by the media and asked to respond to a statement which they had received from another source.
The figures quoted and the sequence of events cited in the Governors’ statement are incorrect, as is any allegation that AET is removing funds from Sandown Bay to cross-subsidise activities elsewhere in the group. We have previously placed the facts on the record, and the Governors are well aware of the true position, which we can re-state here.
Sandown Bay is working within a very difficult funding environment. The current funding crisis for education has been widely reported, and schools right across the country are experiencing severe difficulties as a result. On the Isle of Wight these problems are exacerbated by over-capacity, as a result of which Sandown Bay, in common with several other schools on the island, is experiencing student numbers which have fallen by 10% per year over the past three years, and are predicted to continue declining.
Within this difficult context, Sandown Bay has needed to make some very tough decisions, and AET has been working closely with the Head and Governors to agree restructuring plans. £850,000 was the original level of savings recommended, in the light of current and projected pupil numbers, in order to get the school in good financial shape. Following discussions with the Head, the current target is less than £250,000. Far from recommending these savings to cross-subsidise activities elsewhere in AET, however, as has been alleged, they are being made in order to focus resources where they are needed in the school. Our priority, and that of Sandown Bay, is on educational performance and on ensuring the best possible outcomes for the children and the families we serve.
Meanwhile we have been working very closely with the Head and Governors of Sandown Bay on a programme to improve performance. However, in the light of the recent resignation by the Head, together with the further challenges faced by the school, we took the decision that much stronger governance was needed at the school, supported by professional education experience, and accordingly took the decision to revert to a wider Management Board. This will bring extensive educational experience and the ability to provide close support for the school, as well as the skills and capability to hold it to account and drive educational improvement, in the interest of the school’s pupils who are always our first priority.