The national schools commissioner has written to MPs to “clarify” his comments about visits made by top officials to the troubled Whitehaven Academy, after “discrepancies” were found in his evidence to a powerful parliamentary committee.
Sir David Carter told the education select committee on December 5 that Janet Renou, the regional schools commissioner for the north of England, had visited Whitehaven in Cumbria “within two years”.
He had been responding to questions from Copeland MP Trudy Harrison about problems at the struggling school.
When Harrison told him that Renou had not visited the school “in the past two years”, Carter said he would “agree to differ on that”, and claimed he could “tell you exactly the dates she and her team have visited the school”.
“The school may have told you that but I know for sure that she and her team visited certainly within two years and, I believe, in 2017,” he said at the time.
However, a freedom of information request by the BBC earlier this month revealed that Renou has in fact not visited Whitehaven since late 2015. Robert Halfon, the chair of the education committee, then asked Carter for an explanation of the “discrepancy”.
In his reply to Halfon, dated February 23, Carter said that when he spoke about RSCs he referred to both the officials themselves and members of their team
“I should clarify that I meant this in the terms described above – seeing the RSC and her team as one and the same,” he said. “They have visited and engaged with the school frequently in recent years as they have sought to identify the right support and future for the school.”
Carter said Renou had met Whitehaven’s headteacher in January 2016 and Bright Tribe representatives in Cumbria in January 2017.
In addition, members of her team visited the school in March and October 2016. Education and Skills Funding Agency staff also visited in April and October 2016, and officials “with responsibility for capital” made four visits to the school in 2017.
The Bright Tribe academy trust announced in November that it plans to walk away from Whitehaven, which has been flood-damaged school and left in a state of significant disrepair. The trust will also relinquish four of its five other northern schools.