Salford Council has issued an update on the status of the investigation into claims of "off-rolling", a process which involves removing children academically performing poorly from the school register in order to skew the schools performance statistics, something ex head teacher Drew Povey strongly denies.
In an update today, the deputy Mayor of Salford City Council, John Merry, has attempted to clarify thier current position as well as give explanation into why the process is taking so long, he also wishes to dispel what he claims is misinformation being reported by the press.
Councillor Merry said the school is waiting for the results of the recent Ofsted inspection which was part of the routine cycle of five-yearly inspections.
“Ofsted is an independent and impartial government agency.
“Inspectors assess a wide range of information and evidence from parents, the entire senior leadership team – not just the head teacher alone – their own observations in school and the school’s past performance in exam results. Inspectors then draw their own, independent conclusions and grade the school accordingly.”
Councillor Merry said claims that the investigation was a ‘witch hunt’ were nonsense.
“Let me state categorically that there is no witch hunt and there is no hidden agenda to see the school fail and to make it part of the Greater Manchester Learning Trust which the current interim head teacher oversees.
“I cannot put it any more plainly than that. If the school is judged inadequate by Ofsted then, under government rules, it would have to become a sponsored academy. The choice of academy trust would be outside the council’s control and only certain multi academy trusts are eligible to sponsor schools in this situation. The academy trust GMLT would not be eligible. Leaders from GMLT are currently supporting Harrop Fold as they have the capacity, skills and willingness to help.
“It is on record that the previous head teacher wanted to convert Harrop Fold to an academy. It is also on record that Salford City Council is opposed to academies in principle but, in the interests of the children, has said it will work with any school which converts to an academy.
“The governing body was not bullied and intimidated into launching an investigation. I understand that the allegations made were serious enough to warrant investigation in the interests of the staff involved and the school and we are confident that has been done thoroughly and in accordance with employment law.
“Yes the investigation has taken time because it has been thorough. I cannot and will not go into detail about that because it is confidential.”
Why does the school have a deficit budget?
When the school was in ‘special measures’ in 2003 the debt was built up as the school was trying to improve rapidly. Pupil numbers were low at the school at the time.
Has the debt of the school decreased?
The school has worked hard, in partnership with the council, to reduce their debt to the local authority from over £3m to £1.4 million despite challenging financial circumstances and cuts in budgets to all council services.
The local authority has written off £300,000 of the debt to help the school and the school has been involved in a number of activities, supported by the governing body and the Executive Headteacher to raise additional funds. The local authority has been supportive of the activities, it has extended the repayment plan twice and the local authority also gave the school a five year payment ‘break’.
Salford City Council has a commitment to continue to support the school to become debt-free.
Is it true the council wants the school to academise?
Salford City Council does not support the policy of academisation, but, in the interests of pupils, it supports schools when they have chosen to go down that route, and all schools and academies work collaboratively in our family of schools.
Harrop Fold applied a number of years ago to become an academy with Consilium. Ellesmere Park, Buile Hill and Moorside are all part of this multi academy trust and have strong relationships with the local authority. The Department for Education, however, requires schools to have a healthy budget situation before academising.
The Government can force a school to academise if a school is judged to be inadequate by Ofsted. In this situation, the local authority will have to pay off the school’s deficit budget and the choice of academy trust would be outside the control of the local authority. Only certain multi academy trusts are eligible to sponsor schools in this situation. The academy trust GMLT would not be eligible. Leaders from GMLT are currently supporting Harrop Fold as they have the capacity, skills and willingness to help.
Why are people talking about academisation?
The school has recently had an Ofsted inspection. If the school has been found not to meet standards then the school may be forced to academise under current government regulations.
What happens to Harrop Folds debt if the school academises?
It has been inaccurately reported in the press that Salford City Council would financially benefit if Harrop Fold converted to an academy. The £1.5 million debt would, in fact, return to the local authority and Harrop Fold will be debt free.
Why has the council not being more open about the investigation into staff members?
This is a governors’ investigation. It is a well-established principle of employment law that the details of disciplinary investigations should remain confidential. This is also recommended in the ACAS guide to Discipline at Work and it applies to all employers, not just the local authority or governing body.
It is a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence between an employer and employee to divulge details of a disciplinary investigation to any third party. We cannot share the details of the investigation. The members of staff who are currently suspended are entitled to, and deserve, confidentiality and a fair and just investigation.
There was a rumour that the council offered to pay the former headteacher off, is this true?
The council has made no offer of payment to any staff involved in this matter.
When will parents learn the outcome of the Ofsted inspection?
Ofsted’s finding and judgements are not yet finalised as quality assurance checks take place before reports are published. It is anticipated that the report will be available to all parents/carers later in November or early December.
There is a rumour that the council has told the governing body that they will be replaced by an Interim Executive Board (IEB). Is this true?
The council has never made this suggestion to the governing body.