Part 1 can be accessed here.
Part 2 can be accessed here.
The preceding articles have, in terms of timeline, led up to the period in which an IEB notice was served to the governors of Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College. In this blog we will examine the role and irrational behaviour of the Bradford Council in practically ensuring the removal of the governors, much to the nonchalant detriment of the school’s pupils.
Impeding Response to IEB Application
An Interim Executive Board are governors brought in by the Council in exceptional circumstance with the aim of improving the school. Per process, a letter of intention determining an IEB is first sent to the governing body for them to issue a response. The happenings around this process in the context of Laisterdyke certainly raise questions regarding the motives of the Council; motives which have already been evidenced as being partisan towards the Principal Jen McIntosh and the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).
A period of consultation is meant to ensue so that the governing body can respond and allay any issues raised by the Council. The Council however, attempted to circumvent this process. Clive Linnet, the Council’s Governance and Workforce Development Manager, sent an email on 25th of February 2014, asking the Chair of Governors, Rifat Parveen, to sign the second part of the IEB application. Upon requesting the full IEB application, the Chair was told that she did not need to see it as it was for the Council to complete.
The initial draft copy of the Consultation Notice letter, dated 10th of March, did not even have a deadline date.
The Council then resent the draft document along with nine other bundles of documentation, without highlighting the fact that they had now corrected their mistake and added deadline date. As a result of the confusion, governors confirm that four days of the consultation were lost.
After submitting the response on the 24th of March 2014, a final version was sent by the Council to the governors on 28th March 2014, permitting only one day to respond. The Council had substantially modified the application, revising their arguments, clearly in light of the governors’ response, whilst adding new material contentions. Given that most of the application had now been revised, to then grant only one working day for a further period of consultation would be regarded as preposterously unequitable. Yet this the type of unfair procedural gymnastics which were engaged in by the Council.
This is unsurprising; the Council’s intention to remove the governing body from the outset is well document. A further example can be seen in the Chair’s (Rifat Parveen) attempts to obtain a National Leader in Education. The Chair had sent an email to David Thompson, (the Senior Achievement Authority of Officers assigned by the Council to provide support – more in him further below) on the 3rd of March 2014, requesting the assignment of a National Leader of Education (NLE) as per the actions identified from the review of governance. The following day, Thompson merely forwarded the request on to the Chair of the “School Specific Monitoring Group Meeting” (SSMG) Phil Weston, informing the Parveen that Weston would be in touch “shortly”. Weston did not get in touch for three weeks. Instead the Chair took it upon herself to obtain the services of a local NLE and subsequently notified Weston for retrospective approval.
The IEB Application
The application itself has several issues which demonstrate the Council’s disturbing lack of impartiality.
It falsely asserts that “LBEC currently has a number of temporary senior and middle leaders in post” (IEB Application Form, 28/03/2014, para.1.5), however, at the time of the application, only two senior posts were temporary, and both remained temporary, as I have covered previously because of the governors’ requirement by Ofsted to match pupil progress to salaries.
The application further states that (para. 3.2),
“The LA set up a School Specific Monitoring Group (SSMG) which met on 05 July 2012 to provide an increased level of support and to monitor progress at the LBEC.”
However, support from the SSMG, and the Council has been minimal. Commission of interim and final review of governance, the acquiring of the services of a National Lead Governor (NLG) once the new Chair was appointed, and enrolling on two governor courses, all occurred without assistance and direction from the Council. The lethargy in obtaining key decisions and moving progress forward was hampered by the previous, and was resolved with the appointment of the new Chair. This was confirmed in a letter by the NLG.
It is also worth noting the governing body were not made aware of any concerns about the governing body by the SSMG, by the then Chair of Governors (John Robertshaw), nor David Thompson. Indeed, the minutes to an SSMG meeting held on 27th November 2013, do not raise any substantial concerns, with the only criticism being levelled by Jen McIntosh, specifically that the governors were not making the temporary SLT positions permanent (SSMG Minutes 27/22/2013). Additionally, these minutes were not even circulated to the governors or communicated to by the Chair (Robertshaw). Obtaining these minutes also proved difficult, with perceived filibustering on the part of Council and McIntosh in forwarding the minutes onto the new Chair, which would undoubtedly prove that any long term concerns were simply concocted for the IEB application and not founded upon evidence from the minutes of the SSMG meetings. Despite being appointed the new Chair on the 3rd of February, and despite requesting SSMG minutes as far back as 9th of Jan (the start of the email trail) for a meeting she needed to prepare for on the 9th of March, Parveen had not received the copies of minutes for nine SSMG meetings until the 3rd of March 2014.
The Partial “Impartial” Source for the IEB
One of the sources for the IEB’s application is the aforementioned David Thompson. The issue with Thompson seems to be his demonstrable partisan attitude towards McIntosh and the SLT.
In his “Monitoring and support visit” report dated 12th March 2014, he favourably showed the expected results in English. English was taught by teachers comprised of the the SLT. The mathematics department (headed by a Muslim) comparatively, he asserted, would “only” rise by a lesser percentage. What Thompson masks in this report is the reality; estimates of the English department have been inflated. The Governor report (March 2013), records that the agreed forecast for English A*-C was 63%. Mathematics was forecasted at 57%. The September 2013 Governor report shows that the English department had achieved 50%, whilst mathematics attained 55%. Thompson failed to report this gaping disparity. The 2014 GCSE results serve to reinforce this bias: In 2014 a dismal 35% of pupils attained grade A* to C in English whilst 60% of all pupils attained grade A* to C in mathematics.
Thompson in his report further adds that,
“Governance has not moved forward from the inspection 6 months ago when Governance was deemed to require improvement.”
Compare this assessment to that made by the independent reviewer commissioned as a National Lead Governor (NLG) to assess the competency of the Chair (Parveen). The NLG concluded that the Chair had made a “positive impact” on the governing body and had started to make “inroads into the shortcomings of the governors and the college”.
The Final Review of Governance (dated 20/03/2014) by the NLG also makes for an interesting read. Directly refuting Thompson’s claim the report states,
“At the RoG meeting part of a recent report was shared in which an LA officer had recently re-assessed the College. This includes a statement saying that Governance has not improved in the six months since the Ofsted. This appears to have been produced without any reference to the Governing body. In the NLGs view this statement is incorrect. The Governors and their Governance have improved significantly since my first meeting with them on 7 January, as will become evident from the remainder of this report.”
Thompson’s dim assessment of the governing body needs to be contrasted with his glowing appraisal of McIntosh and the SLT:
“The senior leadership team is becoming increasingly effective, driving forward improvement despite significant challenges under the strong and determined leadership of the principal… Management systems are now robust and systematic particularly the tracking of pupil progress…”
In my previous blog I brought attention to the fact that the governors had requested “Teaching and Learning” data at three successive governing body meetings, without the information being provided properly. Mcintosh also ignored express instructions to not incur expenditure outside the budget, due to a mounting budget deficit, without authorisation of the finance committee of the governing body [Minutes of a meeting of GB’s Finance & General Purposes Committee, 11/11/2013]. In the minutes for the governing body’s finance meeting [04/02/2014] an increase of £25,000 in the buildings expenditure was noted without governing body authorisation.
When the Business Manager resigned, it took the Chair of the HR Committee to send an email to McIntosh in order to determine the progress in recruiting another. This email, sent on the 6th of March 2014, was not responded to.
These issues are in addition to the already established deception played out by McIntosh in order to deliberately mislead the governing body.
All this and more has been conveniently ignored by Thompson and his whitewashing conclusions.
The rest of the IEB application is littered with inaccuracies which suggests that the Council was desperate to ensure the removal of the governing body.
The Council contended that the “Getting to good” plan was “put on hold” by governors. In accentuating the perception that the governors were impeding the process, it cites the Ofsted’s report, and selectively quotes the following (para. 3.7):
“The college’s plan for improvement is detailed and sets out the actions and impact expected.”
The Council neatly omits the next sentence from the Ofsted report:
“However, not all targets and milestones are precisely quantified making it harder to judge accurately whether improvements are being secured at a fast enough pace.”
It also recycles a lie by McIntosh:
“The Principal outlined to Governors at the meeting the previous occasions when they had received copies of the plan and the opportunities to comment on earlier versions.”
As already extensively documented in my first blog in this series, this is patently false.
Continuing the theme of protecting non-Muslim actors in this affair whilst lumping all blame on the evil Muslims is another inacuracy, this time in the context of the previous Chair (Robertshaw). At paragraphs 3.8-9 the Council paints the previous Chair as someone proactive; the then Chair had apparently responded to Council concerns and called an emergency meeting. What actually happened was that the former governor, Faisal Khan, had called the extraordinary meeting and the aim of the meeting was to determine a sustainable SLT structure given new financial information.
The then Chair had in fact delayed the meeting till the 7th of January, on the basis that a clerk was not available even though alternative arrangements concordant to guidelines could have easily been made. Moreover, the Letter of Concern was not shared with the governors prior to this meeting, but was instead “read verbatim”.
Unsubstantiated and Subsequently Disproven Claims
Perhaps amongst the more damning allegations made in the IEB application is the claim that the Council’s Internal Audit “have expressed concerns with regard to financial process” in the governors’ procurement of the services of an education consultant [para.3.19 IEB Application]. As stated in my previous blog, the Internal Audit, on the 28th of March – the same day that the Council submitted its IEB application – found that the governing body had acted properly. Interestingly, Paul Makin, the Council’s biased Assistance Director of Education and School Improvement who seemingly colluded with McIntosh, demonstrated further collaboration between himself and McIntosh, by writing a letter on the 21st of March 2014, raising further financial concerns around the enlistment of an education consultant. Thus, the Council, in yet another example which accentuates the perception of a desperate attempt to remove the governing body, used information which was not only inconclusive but born from a perception of connivance between McIntosh and the Council.
The rest of the IEB application pretty much provides privilege to the SLT and McIntosh without properly vetted evidence, whilst demonising the Muslim governors through spin, deception, and in some cases, outright lies. Yet this has been accepted by the Department for Education and the governors have been removed.
The Council, thoroughly fed by McIntosh, pursued a policy of discrimination, pretty much throughout the process. If it is hypothetically argued that there were failings in governance, then it can also be argued that there is certainly evidence of failures in the Principal and SLT, yet only one group of people, who also happen to be white and non-Muslim, rather like the structurally discriminatory treatment of Muslims in Birmingham last year, remain unaffected. On the contrary the Principal has been lauded whilst the Council-vaunted SLT, despite failings in the school, have been handed the promotions.
The story, however, does not end here. Events post-IEB have dictated further chapters in this curious compendium of Laisterdyke, which will require further exposition.