Steve Beynon: Still blaming everyone else for Island’s education failures

Following the damning Ofsted report on Isle of Wight council’s education, we try and get answers from the people – Steve Beynon and David Pugh – who were in charge, before they left without bearing the consequences.

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As usual Retired Hack does a thorough job, in his own words. Ed

Former Isle of Wight Council boss Steve Beynon has defended his education record on the Island, claiming he was only following orders, OnTheWight can exclusively reveal.

Chief executive and Director of Education Mr Beynon, given a redundancy pay-off as one of the last acts of the Conservative administration before this year’s elections, also variously blames Ofsted, the Island’s schools, and a parents’ pressure group for the state of affairs he left behind, with schools’ performance statistics firmly anchored at or near the bottom of national league tables.

Ofsted laid blame with council
Only recently a damning special Ofsted report into school improvement arrangements laid the blame firmly at the door of the Council’s oversight role.

The report led to further calls, first made by Island MP Andrew Turner within days of the May elections, for Mr Beynon to return to Island to explain himself.

Beynon’s email
The former chief executive has yet to take up that invitation – indeed he has also yet to take up OnTheWight’s invitation to directly comment on Ofsted blasting the IWC handling of the Island’s schooling during his reign.

However, an email has come into OnTheWight’s possession which suggests that, whether or not he is ready to explain, he is certainly not ready to apologise.

The email takes the form of a response to someone (an OnTheWight reader, unbeknownst to him) who expressed an interest in using the services of Mr Beynon’s new consultancy firm, apEynon, to help in the setting up of a Free School.

He is asked to comment on the obvious discrepancies between the somewhat immodest claims made on his LinkedIn page and the findings of the Ofsted report.

Beynon’s list of excuses
His recent email claims include:

  • 2012 Key Stage 2 results were the best ever for the Island.

    (Reality:The KS2 league tables can be found here, and the Island’s position can be summarised as follows: bottom among 152 local authorities in two categories; 128th in one category; 141st in one category; 144th in two categories; and 149th in one category.)

  • The Council “does not run any of the secondary schools”; funds for school improvement are held by the schools, not the Council; and he argued unsuccessfully with Ofsted that the Council should not therefore be held to account for schools in its area.

    (Reality: Ofsted inspectors felt moved to note that “the local authority neither knows the schools well nor intervenes early enough”.)

  • He warned the Council that Ofsted ratings would suffer as a result of reorganisation, but his job was to implement policy. This, he says, was “fully acknowledged” by former Council Leader David Pugh when he retired.

    (Reality: Mr Beynon did not, of course, retire. He did at one stage indicate his intention to do so, then apparently changed his mind, and was subsequently made redundant at public expense before going on to offer his consultancy services as a “strong strategic leader with proven track record of addressing under-achievement”, among other things.
    What Cllr Pugh actually said in February was:

    “It is clear that whilst many of the major projects Steve has overseen have already delivered significant benefits for the Island, others such as the long-term benefits to the Island of schools reorganisation and the Highways PFI contract have yet to be fully realised.”

    Many view the highly-critical Ofsted report as that ‘full realisation’.)

  • He feels it unfair that he should be judged on “that last episode of my career” after 30 years in education, and that he has been overlooked by “those who fought the change to two tier”, an apparent reference to Standards Not Tiers, a parents’ group opposed to the large-scale closure and amalgamation of schools which formed part of the move from three to two-tier education.

No new business
OnTheWight understands that the email has not resulted in any new business for apEynon. This will doubtless come as a relief to Mr Turner who, in the wake of the recent Ofsted report said:

“It is hard to believe that even now he is touting for business as an education consultant elsewhere.

“I am writing to the Secretary of State for Education about this.”

No interruption in pension
As for the MP’s suggestion that Mr Beynon returns to the Island to face his critics, OnTheWight has contacted Steve asking whether it’s ever likely to happen. We’ve yet to receive a response.

We also asked the IWC’s head of legal services, Davina Fiore, what powers of persuasion the Council has in such matters, for example by tying his co-operation to continued payment of his substantial local government pension.

OnTheWight was told:

“In general terms the council could invite a former staff member to answer questions about his or her previous decisions, although the council has no power to require them to attend.

“Regarding to attendance of a meeting to be linked to the ongoing payment of a person’s pension, employees pay into their pension over the course of their careers and are entitled to the benefits set out in the scheme governed by national regulations.”

No word from David Pugh
We will keep readers updated, and will also report any response we get to a request for a comment we put to David Pugh on Ofsted’s damning report on the Isle of Wight Council.

David is now also ploughing the consultancy furrow at Cratus Communication. There he has a brief, and more modest, online CV which – wisely, some may feel – concentrates on topics such as his views on that old chestnut, the Fixed Link.

Image: Steven Depolo under CC BY 2.0

Thursday, 8th August, 2013 4:37pm



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

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32 Comments on "Steve Beynon: Still blaming everyone else for Island’s education failures"

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Steve Draper

Oh Dear, oh Dear! – I really can’t comment about this dismal failure and subsequent pay-off – it wouldn’t be printable. :(


Surely the poor man was only enabling his ultimate masters ( ‘Mr Gove’ ) aims ? First you disable, then discredit, and then do whatever you like with the system to suit your own requirements, privatisate or academise or who knows what . Surely the established Tory way with public sector services . ‘Only obeying orders Guv’


“Former Isle of Wight Council boss Steve Beynon has defended his education record on the Island, claiming he was only following orders.”!

That is known as the “Nuremberg Defence”! However its original airing did not save Hitler’s henchmen from being punished.


Beynon is irrelevant, if he could have made a difference, what would that difference be?

The reason our state schools are a joke is because they are run by feminists. And I don’t think you can blame Beynon for that.


Can we really have faith in anything the legal dept say after they didn’t prevent at least one of the Cowes Enterprise College martyrs being identified. This added to all the other stuff in the past.

“Former Isle of Wight Council boss Steve Beynon has defended his education record on the Island, claiming he was only following orders.” Surely as a dynamic caring leader with vision and 30 years previous experience he would have been aware of the shortcomings of the Age of Transfer conversion programme and would have shared his concerns with his line manager and possibly his political boss as well,… Read more »
Lady at the back
Ah! Mr Beynon has time to justify himself to a potential client for his consultancy firm, but doesn’t have either the time or inclination to face the music down here. Education was supposed to be his USP, as it was of his expensive hireling Roger Edwardson. They both came, took the money and left – and island schoolchildren are the people who are now suffering. Of course… Read more »
Lady at the Back

Oops. That should of course read “political” , not “policical” masters. Sorry.

Robert Jones
Well, let us do the man justice (why, why? you cry) – he was directed to do as he did by an incompetent and ideologically-driven leadership. On the other hand – are we supposed to assume he had no agency of his own? That he could not have advised the council in public, as was his duty, that the proposed changes to education were not going to… Read more »

Don’t forget Alan Wells role in all this.

Yes, well it’s all very good saying that those who made this mess should be recalled to account for what happened. I did my bit for ‘Standards Not Tiers’ which I hoped might prevent it, to no avail. But now, is it worth paying people for their time, and spending a lot of our money in retribution ? I think it is better to spend that time… Read more »
NASUWT and NUT confirm next phase of industrial action The two largest teacher unions, the NASUWT and the NUT, representing nine out of ten teachers, confirmed the next phase of their jointly coordinated campaign to Protect Teachers and Defend Education. Plans are in place for the next stage of industrial action which will include*: continuation of the current action short of strike action instructions; further national rallies… Read more »

Let’s be honest the majority of the last administration, certainly those who believed their own press officers line about ‘movers and shakers’ and certain senior officers with ‘ideas above their own station’ displayed similar arrogance and we know best attitude that did public office and public service a complete and utter dis-service. Pooh Bags all round?


Let’s be honest the majority of the last administration, certainly those who believed their own press officers line about ‘movers and shakers’ and certain senior officers with ‘ideas above their own station’ displayed similar arrogance and we know best attitude that did public office and public service a complete and utter dis-service. Pooh Bags all round?

Albert Street

It is the same senior officers that are still in control advising the independents.


Worse than that Albert most of the cabinet members have never even been Councilors before, they are out of their depth and relying on the same senior officer who got us in this mess to get us out. But those same officers are also briefing the Cabinet members on the complex aspects they don’t understand to persuade them to adopt their own agenda.

Steve Goodman
B. – the mess we are in is not due to the present cabinet, who are therefore unlikely to do a worse job not only because they have seen what the previous councillors did but also because they appear to possess the required intelligence, openness, inclusivity, & genuine concern for our future. The new leadership of Richard Priest on island education is a good example. The need… Read more »

Good to have that steadying hand on the tiller from you, Steve G. We have elected quite a few experienced, perceptive, ethical and grounded people, this time.


fingers crossed


Would be nice if you could trust the senior officers thought wouldn’t it Steve?


When the MP asked for a debate on holding senior officers to account he was told that they were appointed by the Council and the Council were accountable to the electorate.
Well we voted in a new Council, how many of the same ‘us and them’ senior officers who got us into this mess have they replaced so far?

sam salt
Yes you are quite right Bystander, however there are some very experienced councillors there such as Jonathan Bacon, Ian Stephens, Lora Peachey-Wilcox to name a few. We also have Gordon Kendall who served previously under the Libs and Shirley Smart. We should note that at the end of the last administration there were few councillors with little experience in the cabinet. This included ex police officer, now… Read more »

Odd how we have so many differing points of view yet appear to agree that councilors need protecting against officers.

adrian nicholas
Whilst Benyon was clearly an appalling aberration – it would be also easy to by association, to adversely demonize the overwhelming no. of decent committed expert council officers. Their job is to impartially formulate options and practical background for Councillors to their decisions. I would think that the current Indy admin. and knowledgeable Councillors like Labour’s Geoff Lumley would have a far better and less dogmatic relationship… Read more »
Robert Jones
It isn’t so much that councillors need protecting from officers, as that the last lot failed in their scrutiny and oversight of them. I’ve had a lot to do with council officers over some 40 plus years: they vary in competence as much as any other group of professional people – the ones who present problems tend to be those who identify too closely with one group… Read more »

I don’t get Beynon’s company name at all – apEynon?? How do you even say it, why would you take the first letter off your name,(is partial anonymity an advantage perhaps?), isn’t it too near (for the graffitti-minded)’ape’Eynon, or ‘Sap’Eynon’, or dare I say it, ‘cr–‘Eynon…. I just don’t get the muddled thinking. Or perhaps someone can put me right.


(..that should be c—Eynon)


Oh, 3 dashes turned into one long one each time..

It would be nice to bring Beynon and possibly Pugh to account. However, what would actually happen? They would answer some questions, maybe get a smacked wrist and that would be that. Turner has said they should answer for their incompetence – whilst knowing full well that they never will, but saying that they should sounds good. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Island education system… Read more »
Steve Goodman
W. – Yes, it would be useful to hear from Mr.B & Mr.P on why they did what they did with island schooling (and their hostile dealings with the Riverside Centre perhaps); it might prevent further damage. This would of course be in addition to, not instead of, getting on with the job. Indeed, it’s not the council asking; but the likes of OTW & Retired Hack.… Read more »
if you want to stop the same thing happening again, then consult with people as legally required, but dont treat it as a legal exercise. LISTEN to what people have to say, then ACT on it. The people actually doing the job always know more about what will and wont work than politicians. A politicians job is to listen to people and then make sensible, informed policy,… Read more »
Teachers have had enough. The problem in education has been the constant meddling by those who do not know.It is the pragmatists who keep up with their “workable” solutions. The people actually doing the job do know more about what will and won’t work than politicians because they know what kind of education system works for them.The teachers should be the ones to organise and run the… Read more »