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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dulverton Schools Federation, back ground and status – July 2015

Dulverton Schools Federation, back ground and status – July 2015

On the 9 March Local Authority (LA)  and Diocesan representatives met with the Exmoor Federation’s Governing Board to discuss the capacity of the Board to address the issues it was facing at that time which were significant relating to:

  • the future of the Federation in the context of the possible MAT with Minehead Middle School and the challenges that were arising in the community as a result of that,
  • the financial situation of the Federation and in particular the need to make significant savings at All Saints which would require the commencement of the redundancy process and
  • the outcome of the review of governance undertaken by the Local Authority and Diocese which Identified a significant number of areas for improvement whilst recognising the challenges the Governing Board had been facing in determining the future shape of the Federation. 

Alongside this there had been a significant reduction in the capacity of the Board with the recent resignations of the Vice Chair of Governors and the Chairs of the Finance and Curriculum sub Committees and the decision of the two foundation governors to remove themselves from decision making so they could exercise their pastoral role in the community given the concerns being caused by the consideration of the future of the Federation.

It was explained to the Board that the LA had within its powers the ability to remove a Governing Board and replace it with an Interim Executive Board (IEB) which would take on the role of the Governing Board until a point was reached where it was felt appropriate to reinstate it.  It was the view of the Local Authority and the Diocese that this would be the best way forward as it would enable the appointment of a Board that would be demonstrably impartial and we would ensure that the members of the Board had the skillset to manage the issues the Federation was facing. 

Following a discussion the Board agreed unanimously that it should step down to make way for an IEB and this was confirmed subsequently by email by the Chair following conversations with governors who were not present at the meeting. At no point during the meeting or subsequently have any of the governors involved expressed the view that they were, effectively sacked.  In fact those present at the meeting said that there was tangible relief from those present that this action was being taken.  The letter that was sent by Dave Farrow to the Chair of Governors after the meeting stated:

I would wish to emphasise again that this approach is a recognition of the complexity and scale of the challenges facing the Governing Board and is not a criticism of it either collectively or as individuals.  We all recognise that you have all been doing your best in very challenging circumstances and that whatever decisions you have taken, have been taken with the best interest of the children of the Federation to the fore. 

It is right to say that it does take time to establish an IEB as it has to be approved by the Secretary of State and this was compounded by the fact that the application for the IEB was made around the time that the government went in to pre-election purdah.  On that basis as there would have been some time between the decision of the Board to step down and the IEB being established the Local Authority formally withdrew delegated powers from the Federation which meant that all decisions that would otherwise have been taken by the Governing Board would be taken by senior LA officers.

To avoid delaying the decision making process any more than was necessary those individuals who were identified as potential members of the Board began to meet in a shadow capacity whilst we were awaiting confirmation from the DfE of approval for the setting up if the IEB so that they could begin to consider the issues and act in an advisory capacity to the LA.  The proposed membership included individuals nominated by the LA, the Diocese and a representative of the Town Council.  The members are not being paid for their time but the LA is reimbursing travel expenses. 

At a meeting with DfE officials on the 14 May it was suggested that given that the Governing Board had resigned there was no need for an IEB to be established, rather the LA could exercise its authority to appoint governors to a reconstituted Governing Board.  On that basis the process was put in place for the Governing Board to be reconstituted and it was agreed with the Diocese that the members of the Shadow IEB would take the roles of co-opted, community and foundation governors and elections would be run for staff and parent governors.  Unfortunately there were issues with the process to nominate and elect governors and it was decided that the whole process for both staff and parent governors should be run again to ensure fairness and consistency.

As far as the Kingsmead transport situation is concerned this is about the LA ensuring that parents are able to exercise the right to free transport to their nearest school which for many parents whose children attend Dulverton Middle is Kingsmead.

Consequently, SCC are confident that whatever decision they make will be in the best interests of the children and young people of Dulverton and Exford which is what we all want.