Dear Lord Nash,
I am writing to ask you to use your position as Secretary of State to intervene in the situation that has developed at The Ridings Federation Winterbourne International Academy. I have two children there and two other children had a very successful education there, one is currently a medical student at Plymouth University and the other is studying HSPS at Cambridge.
This is the most successful school in South Gloucestershire and unfortunately over the past 18 months or so it has had major difficulties with leadership and management. Despite this in the summer it had the best results of any school in the county. The current chair of trustees Claire Emery has indicated that the school needs to be taken over by a multi academy trust because of its unfavourable financial situation. She claims there is a deficit going forward this year of £1 million. This figure has been disputed by staff and parents and at this point Ms Emery has not been able to clarify where this figure comes from or even publish up to date details of the finances.
The other claim is that there needs to be rapid change of status because of poor OFSTED reports. The most recent report indicated that the main area of concern is in leadership and management. Academic results are excellent, a plan is in place to improve teaching in areas where a need to improve has been identified.
There is currently no chief executive of the Academy, the current head teacher of the Winterbourne site will retire next month and the plan to recruit a replacement for him was abandoned. The current head of 6th form will also leave next month. It seems that in this leadership vacuum Ms Emery is unilaterally making all the major decisions affecting our school and feels she does not need to take the views of parents, students, staff and the wider community including our elected representatives into account. Ms Emery was appointed to the school earlier this year as an external education consultant to look at governance in the school. She then joined the board of trustees and then became chair of trustees.
Her current plan is for the school to be taken over by another multi academy trust. There are 3 bidders Oasis, Greenshaw and Olympus. It is unclear how these have been invited to join the bidding process.
Oasis is completely unsuitable as it has very poor OFSTED results and has virtually no experience of running 6th forms. Staff are alarmed at the prospect of Oasis taking over in view of its very poor track record on employment practices. Oasis has a Christian ethos and parents have expressed concerns that our secular school may be run by such an organisation.
Greenshaw learning trust is only interested in taking over the sister school in TRFWIA in Yate.
Olympus is a local organisation and is considered to be the least bad option.
There are very worrying conflicts of interest in this situation including the Regional Schools Commissioner, Rebecca Clark, who is the National Education Director and South West Regional Director for Oasis.
Please can you
• review the unreasonably influential position of Claire Emery as chair of trustees in view of the ill advised decisions she has made on arbitrary grounds.
• Stop the unreasonably hasty rush for WIA to be taken over by a MAT when there are no clear reasons for that to happen and when it will create enormous risks for the worsening education for our children.
• Prevent Oasis from being allowed to bid to run our school when it is clearly unsuited to doing so.
Dr David Porteous