Caedmon FOIA Responses: Forked Tongues
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, dissecting the weasel words.
Readers who recall my articles:
NYCC: Safeguarding Crisis (23rd March 2016)
Safeguarding Shambles In NYCC Schools (1st April 2016)
will already be aware of serious concerns regarding a wide range of Safeguarding issues in North Yorkshire generally, and at Caedmon College Whitby, in particular.
On Wednesday 13th April 2016, on the twentieth day after submitting a Freedom of Information request to Caedmon College Whitby, I received the following response from the Principal, Mr Keith PRYTHERCH, in person:
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Freedom of Information request
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2016 09:45:01 +0000
From: Keith Prytherch <K.Prytherch@ccwhitby.co.uk>
Dear Mr Ward
Our FOI Reference: 2016/09
Further to your request, I can provide the following information.
1) The names and credentials of each individual member of the so-called ‘shadow’ Governing Body assembled to undertake the transition to The Whitby School, pursuant to the amalgamation of Caedmon College Whitby and Eskdale School.
- I believe the ‘shadow’ Governing Body you are referring to is our joint governors’ steering group – a small group of governors from Caedmon College Whitby and Eskdale School who are considering suitable ways forward should the two schools amalgamate. As you will be aware, the membership of this group is now in the public domain and have been published on a website with which I believe you are involved – the NY Enquirer. Whilst we had good reasons for not making these names public, now that they have been made public by a third party, we can no longer protect the identity of the governors who have freely given their time to help the two schools to make the best plans for the young people in this area. The ‘credentials’ of the people on this group, as stated above, are that they are the Headteacher from Eskdale School, myself – the Principal of Caedmon College Whitby, the Chair of Governors from each school, plus additional Governors from each Governing Body.
2) The number of recorded Safeguarding issues in each of the following School years:
- September 2014 – July 2015: 29
- September 2015 – the present day: 48
3) The number of unrecorded Safeguarding issues in each of the following School years:
- September 2014 – July 2015: 0
- September 2015 – the present day: 0 (all incidents are recorded).
4) The salaries of each individual member of the present Caedmon College Whitby Senior Management Team, together with their names and ‘official’ position titles.
- The ‘Senior Management Team’ you refer to would be our ‘Strategic Team’ which comprises myself as Principal, the two Senior Assistant Principals and three Assistant Principals. These are named in the teaching staff list which is on our website, along with their post titles. In response to your request for the salaries of each individual member of the senior management team, I can confirm that we hold this information. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide you with this information, as salary data for staff is considered to be exempt from disclosure under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, where disclosure would breach one or more principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. I consider that disclosure of the data would breach the first principle – namely that personal information must be fairly and lawfully processed and must meet one of the conditions for processing as provided by Schedule 2 of the Act. In this case, I consider that the disclosure would be unfair and none of the conditions for processing would be met.
Caedmon College Whitby
Tel: 01947 602406
My first observation concerns Keith PRYTHERCH’s response to the first of my questions.
 The Joint Steering Group membership.
Keith PRYTHERCH asserts that the identities of the members of the joint governors’ steering group “have been made public by a third party”.
Unfortunately, Mr PRYTHERCH must be aware that the identities of the members was provided – possibly in error – to a member of the public by Mrs Jackie HUNTER – Caedmon College Whitby’s Business Manager and Clerk to the Governing Body.
To be clear, in the case of my Freedom of Information request, I am the first party.
Caedmon College Whitby is the second party. Mr Keith PRYTHERCH is of the second party. Mrs Jackie Hunter is of the second party.
There is no third party in this constellation other than the member of the public to whom Mrs Jackie HUNTER (perhaps inadvertently) sent the unredacted Minutes, thereby disclosing the identities of the members of the joint governors’ steering group into the public domain. It has been mooted to me that perhaps Mrs Jackie HUNTER disclosed the identities “accidentally on purpose”. Who knows?
So Mr Keith PRYTHERCH has begun his response with a falsehood.
I am surprised that Mr Keith PRYTHERCH felt free to dissemble in this way because I published Mrs Jackie HUNTER’s unfortunate ‘error’ on 7th April 2016 in my article Eskdale: At Last – The UNREDACTED JSG Minutes 17/03/16, and he has admitted that he is aware of that.
It does not end there.
My request was lodged on 24th March 2016. The identities were disclosed to a third party two weeks later, on 7th April 2016. This has no bearing on CCW’s statutory duty to provide the requested information directly to me within the twenty working-day time-period. The fact that by 7th April 2016, I already held the requested information in no way negates CCW’s statutory duty to provide it.
The members, by the way, are Sue WHELAN, Keith PRYTHERCH (whose position is surely conflicted), Andrew KELLY, Alison HODGSON, Garry MATTHEWS, Richard SIMPSON, Pen CRUZ, Jane MORTIMER and Sue VERRILL.
And Mr PRYTHERCH has also fudged the issues in regard to providing the credentials of the members of the joint governors’ steering group. He has provided their positions, not their credentials.
‘Credentials’, in its ordinary and natural meaning, denotes:
- A qualification, achievement, quality, or aspect of a person’s background, especially when used to indicate their suitability for something: “recruitment is based mainly on academic credentials”.
This is the information I requested. Quite clearly, Mr Keith PRYTHERCH has not provided it.
In fact, Mr PRYTHERCH has withheld the identities of the members and withheld their credentials.
Apparently, he believes that the public has no business knowing who is making the decisions or whether or not they have any aptitude, experience or suitability to do so.
So much for transparency.
 The Safeguarding figures.
The government defines Safeguarding thus:
- protecting children from maltreatment
- preventing impairment of children’s health and development
- ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
- taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
Mr Keith PRYTHERCH’s, in his FOIA response to me, asserts that there were 29 Safeguarding issues recorded during the school year Sept. ’14 to July ’15, and that, in the two completed terms Sept. ’15 to march ’16 there have already been 48 recorded incidents. Pro rata, this would suggest that a full school year total might be 72 incidents – two-and-a-half times the previous year’s total.
This, in itself, as a shocking revelation.
But the government definition of Safeguarding clearly includes such concerns as:
- sexual exploitation
- drug-related concerns
So how is it that on the same day as Mr Keith PRYTHERCH signed off my FOIA response, he also signed off an FOIA response to another member of the public who had requested the number of incidents of “bullying and negative treatment of children by both fellow pupils and/or staff” showing even more alarming figures:
- September 2014 to August 2015: – 189 incidences
- September 2015 to March 2016: – 70 incidences
But bullying represents only a part of the Safeguarding – so how can these figures exceed the total recorded Safeguarding incidents?
Clearly, there is a huge disparity here – though both sets of figures have been signed off by Mr Keith PRYTHERCH.
 Unrecorded Safeguarding issues.
Mr Keith PRYTHERCH asserts that all incidents are recorded. I ask again; how is it that the bullying figures alone vastly exceed the full spectrum Safeguarding figures? What is established here – at the very least – is that Mr Keith PRYTHERCH may not be qualified to teach simple arithmetic.
 Senior Management Team Salaries.
I have lodged an Appeal for Internal Review of Mr Keith PRYTHERCH’s response to my request. He appears to hold the view that, though the salary of the Director of Childrens’ & Young Peoples’ Services, Mr Pete DWYER is in the public domain (£129,600 p.a., last time I looked), lesser mortals need not account to the public for their handsome salaries.
A good contact of mine further up the food-chain has estimated that the Caedmon Principal must be in the £85-£95K p.a. band (plus bonuses of up to 10%), and the Assistant Principals in the £60K-£65K band. Together, they could be attracting the batter part of half-a-million pounds a year. Plus pension contributions. For that kind of money, one might reasonably expect them to record the Safeguarding figures more professionally than on the back of a fag packet.
Meanwhile, there have been other developments.
Firstly, information regarding how things are to proceed at Eskdale School from September 2016:
Secondly, correspondence today from OfSTED indicates that the Safeguarding issues are to be independently assessed. This is very welcome news indeed. I will be reporting on it in detail when it is appropriate to do so.
Finally, Eskdale Headteacher Sue WHELAN has, at long last, stated her position in a Consultation Response (pages 123/4) that Mr Keith PRYTHERCH is unlikely to have greeted with overt delight:
“I do not agree with the proposal to amalgamate Eskdale School with Caedmon College. Eskdale School is a thriving, caring school with a great future if it is given the chance. In its latest OFSTED report there were clear areas for improvement, these have been robustly tackled, we are now seeing progress in areas identified and we are awaiting an HMI visit to confirm that we are moving in the right direction. As the head teacher of Eskdale School, I have always believed that moving the school to 11-16 was a crucial part of our school improvement journey. It would allow us to have externally validated GCSE results, and a larger workforce with heads of department to provide extra challenge. We would be judged at OFSTED in the same way as almost every other secondary school in England. The essential nature of the school would not be changed; Eskdale would still be small enough to provide the care that is so valued by students, parents and staff but large enough to be viable – our business case showed that we were sound financially once the differences over lagged funding was factored in. The Local Authority has never seen beyond facts and figures, it is wedded to the idea of one large secondary school in Whitby. The options appraisal did not look in detail at the position of Eskdale as 11-16 and Caedmon College as 11-19. In the consultation meeting much was made of an amalgamated school being able to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, at Eskdale we offer all the traditional subjects and were planning to offer similar GCSEs as most other secondary schools. Indeed the Government drive on EBacc subjects and Progress 8 measures is already restrictingchoice for young people. Our extra curricular offer for a small school is remarkable -please click on the links below to take you to two of our school magazines that show many of the activities that demonstrate our commitment to developing the whole child. http://eskdale-school.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NEWSLETTER-3.pdf
http://eskdale-school.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NEWSLETTER-2.pdf Eskdale is a popular school, it has always had more students than would be expected from the feeder school numbers and nearly all of the primary schools have sent some Year 6 students to us. Our surveys of parents have been overwhelmingly positive and many write that their child had settled better than expected into Year 7. Our parents value the quick response to problems and will often call into school and be able to speak with an appropriate member of staff straightaway. This would not be possible in a larger school or one with a different ethos of dealing with students and parents. Our students see themselves clearly as a part of the school, valuing the personal touch and as shown by the recent video, are very committed to preserving the school. There is tremendous support for Eskdale School to be an 11-16 school and Caedmon College to remain an 11-19 school. This is not just from Eskdale parents. The surplus places could be reduced by alterations to the current Normanby site and sale of the old Caedmon site with grounds retained for use of Caedmon College students. Eskdale would require some upgrading of the current facilities, but this would amount to less than the improvements that would be required to bring about the necessary changes if all 11-16 students were to be housed on the current Normanby site and the Caedmon site is to be upgraded to make a 6th form centre. The Eskdale site provides a valuable community amenity with many groups using the venue. This would be a loss to the eastern side of town. Over the last two years the school has conducted surveys to assess support for initially becoming an academy with the intention of changing the age range to 11-16, and secondly for changing to 11-16 within the Local Authority. Both of these consultations had large responses – hundreds more than the Local Authority one for the merger of Caedmon School with Whitby Community College. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and a parental survey to gauge support for Eskdale moving to 11-16 reached almost two thousand signatures in a few weeks. These surveys reinforce the tremendous public support for Eskdale. Questions need to be asked as to why parents are talking about sending their children at least 20 miles to a different school and not to the proposed new school, and also why many are seeking to home school their children. If this goes forward the education and extra experiences that the new school could offer is at risk due to decreased funding. One large school removes choice for parents, the next nearest school is over twenty miles away. For those not attending secondary education in Whitby, it would mean that taking part in activities after school whether at school or in the local community becomes much harder, the school day is extended for young children by up to 2 hours and their school friends are not their local friends. There will also be a knock on effect if these young people re-enter the education system in Whitby once the academic year is up and running, achieving the required progress measures will be harder if some young people are not in education for a significant time. For officials to dismiss these concerns saying that this is down to parental choice glosses over the fact that the local authority are proposing to remove choice at a local level. There is a lot of evidence from America that small schools provide a better educational experience. We have a lot of feeder schools, some only have one or two students in year 6 and they find joining a school of three hundred daunting, this will be a much harder task in a school of over one thousand students. At Eskdale, I know all the students names and have talked to many of their parents. The pastoral team are responsible for ensuring that students are making progress and we really understand that happy children make the best learners. We may not always get it right but we always try our best to ensure that we talk to each young person who has a problem. We try to understand what we can do together to make it better for them in school. We are flexible and understand that one size does not fit all. We encourage our young people to learn to self regulate, make positive choices, learn from mistakes, show respect and take responsibility for themselves. It has been said that if Eskdale moves to 11-16 then the sixth form will have to close. This is not the desire of Eskdale School, and many of our students would go there increasing numbers in a way that other schools would not benefit from. All sixth forms are under threat from funding issues, and Caedmon College has one of the larger school sixth forms in North Yorkshire. The second OFSTED judgement has been used against Eskdale and it is right and proper that this is challenged. The OFSTED report recognised the improvements since the previous inspection and if Eskdale remains open and moves through to 11-16 it will be able to use this as continued school improvement, Mr Dwyer said that it was a big ask, the amalgamation is an even bigger ask in my view. Caedmon College has been amalgamated two years and to take on another influx of students is challenging especially in the short time frame set out by the Local Authority. The state of flux over the next few years will potentially disrupt the education of a large proportion of the students in Whitby.I have spoken to several OFSTED inspectors over the last two years and not one of them has suggested to me that moving to 11-16 was wrong. If this amalgamation goes ahead, we face losing something that is valued and is improving; I fear that the ethos of Eskdale will be lost, students will be lost to Whitby and valuable staff will move elsewhere. If this amalgamation does not go ahead there will be testing times for Caedmon College as it adjusts to a smaller budget and for Eskdale School as we continue the relentless drive for school improvement. However I know that as the headteacher of Eskdale school I will have committed staff, students and parents, not resentful ones, and that will make all the difference.”
Neverthess, the battle is far from over. It will be interesting to see, when all is revealed, which careers are left behind on the battlefield.