Cornish diocese forces an entire MAT board to resign


According to official Department for Education guidance, members of academy trusts have the power to appoint and remove trustees at will. The diocese of Truro is listed as a member of the St Barnabas Trust in its latest accounts. Another trust school, Millbrook Academy, was rated ‘RI’ when it joined the trust, and it remained at that level following an inspection last February. St Martin’s Academy, which had previously been ‘satisfactory’ at its last inspection in 2011, was also graded ‘RI’ in 2016, with directors criticised for not being effective in “holding leaders to account for raising standards”. However, both St Nicolas Academy and Braddock Academy actually improved after joining the trust, attaining ‘good’ grades in 2016. Matt Bloomfield, the trust’s former chair and one of the five trustees asked to leave by the diocese, said his team was “totally shocked”. “The board was very active within the trust and the schools were improving,” he said. “For the whole board to be gone without warning, with zero choice, was completely unexpected.” He understands the diocese already had another board “ready to go”. Steve Lacey, another trustee, said the schools had been left “in a very vulnerable position” and the way his colleagues were told to resign was “not done with the process or values I would expect from a Christian organisation”. It is “astonishing” the diocese would discard a board that has “volunteered large amounts of their personal time”, he added. A spokesperson for the diocese of Truro confirmed directors were “given the option of resigning before being removed”. Simon Cade, its director of education, said that “put starkly, school performance and inspection outcomes last year showed that there was still a long way to go for this MAT”. The directors had made “assurances” that at least one school would retain its ‘good’ rating. The executive principal was also due to leave for a new job for Easter, but the board had not made arrangements to replace her. The RSC for the region, former academy boss Lisa Mannall, was kept informed, the diocese added.

Schools Week editorial 

Schools Week says: Just how much of a virtue is forgiveness?

The curious case of the St Barnabas Trust raises the question of just when trustees should be hung out to dry for “failing”. Is it when all their schools move into special measures? Fair enough. When most of their schools are rated ‘requires improvement’? Possibly. What if none are in special measures? Slipping below the magic ‘good’ threshold reminds us of the critical difference between a ‘strong’ and ‘standard’ GCSE pass – it’s close, but if you miss it, heads may roll.* Schools Week appreciates the professional pride of directors is not the reason schools are run – but if the Church of England is going to support schools, it should emphasise that support rather than a zero-tolerance approach, or risk tarnishing its good name.   *We have removed a reference to the executive headteacher leaving their role, after recognising it was unfair to mention this without approaching them first.

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  1. Mark Watson

    Genuinely gob-smacked at the hypocrisy here. And that’s saying something.
    Is Schools Week genuinely saying that the feelings of individual MAT trustees are more important than improving the education of children in these six schools? Does anyone with the tiniest bit of independence think it sounds like this organisation is doing a good job? Four of six schools in RI (and neither of the other two is outstanding).
    And wow, I’m glad I was sitting down when I read that the individuals who have been removed from their positions didn’t agree with the decision. Because in my experience everyone who’s fired from their job for not being good enough agrees with the judgment and goes on record to say so.
    I particularly like the comment from a departing Trustee about how it is “astonishing” the diocese would discard a board that has “volunteered large amounts of their personal time”. So as long as I’m volunteering my time it doesn’t matter how bad I am or how much I negatively impact the children’s prospects?
    And of course the NGA, the national membership organisation whose aim is “to represent school governors and trustees” doesn’t agree with this. Again, big shock there. That’s like asking the General Secretary of the RMT if he agrees tube drivers should be fired.
    I see SO MANY comments on these Boards about academy trusts being allowed to carry on their merry way without anyone holding them to account or making sure they are doing the best possible job. And yet here we have a situation where a Board of Trustees is being held to account and all we have is whinging about how their feelings might be hurt.