GOVERNORS who resigned from one of Leeds’ most prestigious schools over controversial plans to change it to academy status claim the decision does not fully represent the views of the wider community and key stakeholders.
In an open letter to the press, the group of seven ex-members of the governing body of 400-year-old Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Otley, says it fears the views of parents and the local community have been seemingly ignored.
The ‘No’ group - which quit the school’s governing body after proposals for academy status for the 1600 pupil school were passed by just one vote - says none of the consultations which the school undertook prior to the key vote have been considered seriously.
The school, which has a Royal Charter from 1607, is now on course to becoming an academy after the governing body voted 10-9 in favour of the decision.
The group has won the support of Greg Mullholland MP, who recently raised the matter of the process of conversion to academy status, in 'Education Questions' in the House of Commons and on BBC Parliament.
Mr Mullholland has also written to the Secretary of State for Education questioning whether a two-thirds majority would be more appropriate when deciding such key matters.
The ‘No’ group, which has over 80 years’ of experience as school governors, says the future of such an historic school, which has key influence in the Wharfedale community, should not be decided by such a narrow margin - and without a greater public consultation.
‘As part of the process the Government expects schools to engage in a meaningful consultation with parents, community and the staff.
‘PHGS did appear to engage in a consultation with stakeholders. All were encouraged to send in their views, attend meetings and the staff were allowed a vote. However, none of the outcomes of this consultation seem to have been considered seriously.
‘It is widely known that the Governing Body was split. There were twenty governors during the seven months of the study. At no time did a majority of the governors support Academy status.
‘A vote to apply for Academy status and last week’s final vote to move to Academy status were only won due to the absence of a governor who would have voted against the move, but who could not attend.
‘There had been two previous votes when the attendance was such that moves towards Academy status were stalled.
‘The stalemate at the Governing Body meant even greater attention should have been paid to the views of parents and the community. The feedback from these groups has been overwhelmingly negative, as indeed was the unanimous view from our Town Council.
‘How then can we have a situation where PHGS is now to become an Academy?
‘Sadly, consultation is not what it seems. The dictionary definition “to seek permission, approval and advice” seems irrelevant. In Otley it has been re-defined as “ticking a box”.
‘Whilst it seems incredible that PHGS is now to become an Academy against the will of the community, the staff and exactly half the Governors there seems no way to prevent it.
What may the consequences be for our school and its relationship with the community?’”
The letter continues:
“What of the future? Will a tie up with other Academies outside of Leeds be considered? If this happens who will be making the key decisions on the future of education in our town?
“The community should be congratulated for its spirited efforts to try to convey its views to the Governing Body. How disappointing that many of those Governors who were in favour of Academy status didn’t bother to attend the public meeting to hear the views of the community.
'Box ticked…move on.
“Cutting the school off from the Local Authority is one thing, cutting it off from the wishes of its local community is entirely another.’
Rehana Minhas, speaking today, on behalf of the group, said:
“The governors who are opposed to the academy have great concerns over issues of governance.
“In the process of consultation, staff, parents and the community have voted overwhelmingly against a move to Academy status but their views have not been taken into account by those governors who voted for the academy.
“This raises obvious concerns and issues about the future - where will parents’ views, staff and students’ views fit into the decision making process of any future academy.
“The vision of the academy has not been shared - we would seriously question if this would be the right move, for a short term financial gain.”
“We are calling on parents and key stakeholders in the community which have Prince Henry’s at its heart, to take notice of our open letter, and to urge the governing body to re-visit its decision on the vital issue for the future of such a much-loved and venerable school.”