BREAKING NEWS :   Judge writes 70 page statement on Treatment of a JKHS Teacher -  READ MORE

"Independent Review of Governance" and JKHS' resulting "action plan"

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JKHS Governance Review

Following the school losing on all major counts in an Employment Tribunal, revealing the treatment of a teacher, her unfair sacking, and devising of false allegations against her, the school commissioned an "independent review of governance" which has now concluded

The review, by Denis Barry, a National Leader of Governance, has been passed to John Kyrle High School and on 26th April 2021, the school wrote to parents about it, and referred to an "action plan" that has been put in place.

The letter can be read here in full (PDF) and the action plan can be read here (PDF).

The key news is that the Governance Review has brought negative revelations of breadth and depth enough that not only has the school cut ties with Chair of Trustees, Denise Strutt, it now has an overseeing National Leader of Governance in place for the next year, sitting above the school's replacement for Denise Strutt, Murray Alston. This sort of arrangement is extremely rare, and is a sort of "special measures" type arrangement for governance - an indicator of the extent and depth of the problems at JKHS. George Craig, the NLG now overseeing and scrutinising John Kyrle High School is now at the helm for making sure his Action Plan is achieved.

The Action Plan intends to address engagement with parents and the community, which will be welcome news to a great many people who say they have experienced being stonewalled, ignored and treated badly by John Kyrle's leadership team. The Action Plan also includes addressing the financial outlay at the school for its leadership, and recruiting a properly suitable and qualified Clerk to the Trustees, a role which was undertaken by Nigel Griffiths very own personal assistant for years, at the deep concern of many.

The letter from the school outlined that 46 people had been spoken to, by Denis Barry, for the review. Despite many in the community being interested to read the review, (which was taxpayer funded), the school has said "While we appreciate that there is interest in the publication of the full report, the External Review of Governance will not be published or distributed beyond Members".

There are 5 Members at the school, who sit above the Trustee Board. Many have noted that Denise Strutt, the Ex-Chair of Trustees (who has since stood down in the weeks immediately before 26th April 2021), was once a Member, and more notably, Neil Pascoe is one of the 5 members. Who is Neil Pascoe? When the teacher was unfairly sacked, with false allegations against her, anti-trade union discrimination on the part of the Headteacher, and the school ignoring a disability in their pursuit of unfairly sacking her, she had to attend two panels which should never have happened. These were a disciplinary panel and a final appeals panel, Neil Pascoe headed one of those panels.

So, in their action plan, what have John Kyrle told parents they are going to do?

The community has been waiting to hear what the school will do regarding holding Nigel Griffiths, David Boyd and Kristian Phillips to account for their parts in the unfair sacking, as well as Denise Strutt (but she resigned), Neil Pascoe, and David Potter.

The action plan, again, linked here, however has nothing in it about directly addressing this. This public facing plan is extremely condensed, and accountability will be on the radar of the NLG concerned as the bullying of Jo Lucas through her unfair dismissal was a contributing factor to the commissioning of Denis Barry's review.

It has been noted that there is no reference in the action plan to the Employment Tribunal, or to any of the actions of the school that were described in the 70-page long Judge's Statement that resulted from the hearing. Governance failings however were detailed by the Judge.

Also in the letter, it announces a new interim Chair of Trustees to replace Denise Strutt, this person being Murray Alston. Just 3 weeks before, in the Ross Gazette, a letter said: "At the time of Denise Strutt's appointment the school said of it 'Mr Griffiths said he was delighted with Denise Strutt's appointment as chairman, as it was he who suggested she became a trustee several years ago' ...independence is a requirement of effective governance ...can the school guarantee that it will look for someone truly independent, perhaps with no prior relationship with the headteacher this time?". Upon the announcement of Murray Alston as interim Chair of Trustees, immediately people have commented how Mr Alston used to socialise with Nigel Griffiths, playing squash and tennis with him.

Is there anything of note in the "action plan" relating to other common issues?

Page 2 has an item about the governance, to action, which is "To recruit a professional clerk" so that "The Board and its Committees are supported by a suitably qualified professional clerk who is able to provide an appropriate level of challenge and support". Many people over the years have voiced their concerns that the Headteacher, Nigel Griffiths' own Personal Assistant, is also the Clerk to the Trustees. It seems that this point could relate to that. Certainly many people have found this arrangement to be potentially worrying, and certainly the lack of 'challenge' to the Headteacher is mentioned time and again. One previous very well respected Chair of Governors of 36 years service resigned over how the school was being run under Nigel Griffiths including how staff had been treated.

BREAKING NEWS followed 27th April 2021, just one day after the school's letter and action plan reveal, that Carol Straughan has been removed from her role as Clerk to the Trustees. It seems the school need to replace her with, as they put it, with someone "who is able to provide an appropriate level of challenge and support". Carol Straughan had been signing letters from the school relating to turning away complaints, with some seeing this a protecting Nigel Griffiths and David Boyd from incoming complaints, and Carol Straughan's day to day job is Personal Assistant to Nigel Griffiths.

Carol Straughan is however still listed on the JKHS website under the Senior Leadership Team (as Headteacher's Personal Assistant), this despite the fact that she is only someone in a support role, effectively a sort of secretary. In effect, she makes no decisions on the Senior Leadership Team, but is listed on it. It is not clear what wages she receives from the school.

Page 4 has an item "Develop more effective stakeholder engagement with pupils, staff, parents and the wider community." This, of course is something that would be welcomed by this group, and by over 300 people who signed a petition asking for a simple meeting with the school about mental health, a meeting that was stonewalled by the Headteacher Nigel Griffiths. The 'mental health lead' and SENCO, Trixie Clarke, flatly refused to talk about mental health when asked, as did Denise Strutt (now ex-Chair of Trustees).

Page 4 also has an item to address, to make sure "Leadership structure is financially sustainable and better supports the needs of the school." Nigel Griffiths, the Headteacher is currently on wages of £145,000 - £150,000 with £30,000 - £35,0000 in pension contributions, and 2nd in command David Boyd receives £100,000 - £110,000, outstripping the wages of actual headteachers in other schools. The Senior Leadership Group (SLG) of non-teaching staff is bigger than other schools of JKHS' size, and more highly paid too. So, if the school does address this problem, it should be able to drop Griffiths or Boyd*, have the remaining one on reasonable market rate wages instead, and lower the size of the SLG and address wages there too where appropriate.

*Note, both Griffiths and Boyd have been implicated in driving the actions of the unfair dismissal, and the action plan makes no note of disciplinary actions at all to take place.

The school says the action plan has been guided by George Graig, a National Leader of Governance.

A bio of George Craig, from another school's website where he works says:

I am a founder member and Chair of the Board of directors of the Hales Valley Trust. I became a National Leader of Governance (NLG) in 2013 and was appointed as National Leader of Governance Advocate for the West Midlands region in January 2015. In September 2017 I was appointed as West Midlands Stronger Governance Champion and I currently manage a team of NLGs and NLG Advocates across 16 local authorities. I am an experienced External Review of Governance practitioner, IEB Chair and I also work in a professional capacity as an education consultant, providing a wide range of support and training for the Department of Education, Regional Schools Commissioner, Local Authorities, school leaders and governors both locally and nationally.

Additionally, the school says it has appointed a new interim Chair of Trustees, Murray Alston, of whom the school's website says:

With his wife, Wendy, his three sons and he emigrated to the UK in 1997. With a background in Civil Engineering and Quarry Management he joined a family quarrying business in the Forest of Dean and spent thirteen years with the company before selling it to a multi-national organisation. Following a period of seven years as a consultant to the quarrying industry he retired. He is a keen tennis, squash and golf player and together with his wife enjoys walking, cycling, skiing and sailing. His three sons all attended JKHS from Year 7 through to Year 13 during which time he was a Parent Governor and Trustee before resigning in 2014.

Finally, the school says it has also appointed an interim Deputy Chair of Trustees, Rod Barker, of whom the school's website says:

Rodney Barker was a Governor of JKHS 2010 to 2015, three of which were as Vice-Chair.

Rod spent most of his career in the City of London, successively as HR director of Charterhouse Group and Security Pacific International Merchant Bank, then Business and Technical Director of Allen & Overy. He has a BA (Hons) in econometrics from the University of Warwick. Professional qualifications included FCIPD, FCIM and FRSA.

Rod has lived near Ross for over 20 years. He was one of the founding Trustees of the Herefordshire Tertiary Education Trust which created the county’s new engineering university - NMiTE. His involvement in local organisations has included membership of a Parish Council, Rotary, Probus and the Hereford Historic Churches Trust and other village committees.

...more updates to follow.