Former silenced Sandown Bay Academy Governors speak out (updated)

The Governors of Sandown Bay say they’d not been informed by AET about the Management Board, and speak out about AET’s “unreasonable demands”. AET refute the allegations.

reading a paper

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.

Image: dlee13 under CC BY 2.0

Friday, 28th April, 2017 7:35am

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Filed under: Education, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Sandown, Top story

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23 Comments on "Former silenced Sandown Bay Academy Governors speak out (updated)"

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Alison Langdon

This needs to become National news urgently and AET removed by whatever means immediately. The staff, children and families derserve so much more. All schools should and must be under total government control.

peterj

There is a petition, which could help fuel publicity:

https://www.change.org/p/uk-department-for-education-remove-academies-enterprise-trust-as-sponsor-of-sandown-bay-academy-on-the-isle-of-wight

The academy system is a complete shambles and needs to be fought!

Debbie Andre
This travesty needs to be tackled as soon as possible to protect our students and support the staff who are caught up in this mess. Once a school’s management is handed over to an Academy it cannot be returned to Local Authority control. However, it is possible, with the sanction of the Regional Schools Commissioner, to bring together local bodies to create a local sponsor that could… Read more »
Mrs Denise chandler

This realy does make me sad as a parent it should become national news!!!. The AET should be removed from school I as a mother of a child at Sandown bay is backing this .our children deserve to be settled not having to have this over there and our heads .

Nitonia

AET should be removed from all schools. Their behaviour in this matter is a scandal.

Geoff Lumley

I also see from the CP that the two Tory Council candidates in Lake have both been appointed by AET as new governors and that the one old governor retained is also a Tory candidate in Shanklin. AET must really have their heads in the clouds if they don’t know the local Tories’ dreadful record on education. AET should be removed from any responsibility for this school.

Andrew Clarke
Strangely Geoff I agree with you, especially as prospective Councillor Chris Quirk who is the Tory candidate you refer to, clearly has no interest in the future of our Bay’s high school, as he has at no point made any reference to the schools future in any of his election dribble. – which is odd considering his position on the Schools board. He would in fact prefer… Read more »
chrisquirk
A lot of factual errors need to be corrected. The “Tory Candidates” allegedly being appointed were both Governors before they were members of the Conservative Party, in one case working as a Governor/Management Board member for the last nine years. I was asked by the then Education lead for the Island Independents to join the Managemt Board at Sandown Bay as the Council’s nomination, based on the… Read more »
peterj

I’m not sure that answers anything.

Do you support AET’s disbanding of the Governors and was it because they were critical of the cuts they are imposing? You honestly don’t see that by siding with AET you are being seen to support a truly broken model of school administration? People aren’t allow to complain about any of this??

Finally, what is ‘an eighth form’?

Sally Perry

Is Anthony Tig Outlaw the same person as Martin Outlaw?

That aside, the Chair (Chris Quirk) is the only person from the Governing Board who remains.

The list on the website of those who remain has not been updated – for example Jacqueline Gazzard is the former governor who sent the statement above

Geoff Lumley

I believe so. However, from what you say, I may have misunderstood the CP article and the two Lake Tories are sacked ones. Apologies if that is the case, though I would be surprised still if they had been governors.

Tig Outlaw

I am not Martin Geoff. I’m Tig.

Geoff Lumley

OK

Vix Lowthion

This is too familiar. AET behaved the same when they ran Weston Primary in Totland. Within weeks the school had been closed down by them. What are their plans for Sandown this time? Really worrying for parents, staff and the community. AET must clarify their intentions with urgency.

Rupert Besley
Agreeing with comments above, this is a serious matter. Too often in such circumstances difficult truths do not come out, as a result of those at the centre being prevented from speaking out by those above (and by fear of the consequences). What is happening here is a direct result of government-driven policies to remove local authority responsibility and control, along with the accountability that goes with… Read more »
mat
The Academy system in education must go. We have said on here many times that it is a private system that looks at schools as a means of profit and children as a commodity and labour as a cost. How can this system sustain education as a right of all? Many of us warned of the Conservatives failure in our schools. Now is the opportunity to make… Read more »
Marianne Sullivan
I taught at Sandown from 1990 up to July last year and it makes me weep to think of the poor students and hardworking staff who are struggling to achieve educational results that will be vital to our wonderful young people in their lives to come. How dare AET put all that at risk! When they took the School over, we knew that promises of new investment… Read more »
Rod Manley

The place is up for closure. Only a vote for an anti-austerity candidate can save Sandown. The staff need to be balloted for industrial action to protect jobs and protest against AET and a future for the school.Action needs to take place now, during the election campaign.There is time.

Jake Gully
The AET behaviour is shocking, especially if the central allegation that cuts are intended to offset losses elsewhere within the AET Chain. However also worth pointing out the Conservative education policy of Free schools has exacerbated the situation causing dramatic falls in rolls at all Island secondarys (other than CTK) – and proposed changes to pupil funding will result in further dilution and lowering of standards.
richardshanklinite

If you have a day spare have a look at the accounts on companies house web site (free to look)there is about 63 pages and the last ones look interesting given they say THIS IS NOT FOR PUBLICATION so I have only looked!
Basically it does look like the group has had to save money.

greenfiremouse

Especially the information about the hundreds of thousands of Pounds that were paid to AET as “Service charges” (somewhere in the middle of the document) is rather revealing.

Peter Whiteman

This is very worrying for the pupils and staff. Hampshire & IW council need to act, they appear to be sat on there hands. They need to set up a ( IEB) Interim Executive Board which will run the school, a very similar approach,if a school went into special measures.This school needs strong leadership for its pupils and staff now.

m coakley
I wrote to Jonathon de Sausmarez when AET were considering the temporary and then the permanent appointment of Shaheen Kahn Jones as Head teacher of Sandown. She had previously been Head at Carisbrooke and walked out without any notice leaving behind a shambles. AET, knowing her record then appointed her. She not only left in similar circumstances but was appointed to a new post while she was… Read more »