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North Yorks Enquirer

Eskdale: A View From Afar

November 14, 2014 Letters

A Letter to the Editor from Ray TOLLEY, formerly of South Yorkshire – now of Gateshead, who shares with readers his  views on the subject of Headteacher Sue WHELAN’s “eviction” of Councillor Mike WARD (UKIP) from the Eskdale School Board of Governors. (See leading article here).


Dear Editor and readers of the North Yorks Enquirer

I am a Yorkshireman now living in Gateshead. I have just heard on our local
news about the disturbing action of the Headteacher of Eskdale School in
Whitby. This is of national significance and should be brought to the
attention of all Governors of all schools in the UK.

I write as an ex-Senior Teacher, now retired, and presently a Governor at my
local school.

This concerns Mike Ward, a serving SBC Councillor (formerly an Independent
member) for Esk Valley ward, who recently changed his allegiance to UKIP.
And what happened? The Headteacher of Eskdale School apparently does not
like UKIP and abruptly asked Mike to resign his position as Chair of
Governors of the school. Mike graciously complied with her demand.

However, this action by Mrs Whelan in dismissing Mike Ward is grossly
unconstitutional, she has got it completely wrong. Surely she knows that
the Chair of Governors is elected by the Governors of the School - and for
that matter, it is the Governors who appoint or dismiss the Headteacher and
not the other way round.

I am intrigued by this action and have thus looked further into this case:

1. During Mrs Whelan's recent tenure as Headteacher, the OfSTED reports
have dramatically plummeted from 'Outstanding' to 'Requires Improvement'. I
don't know but I wonder if there was any festering disagreements between the
Headteacher and the Chair of Governors?

2. Similarly, I note that the school roll has fallen in recent years,
was this yet another distressing situation for Mrs Whelan?

3. Looking at the Eskdale School website it is hard to find any
reference to the Governors of the School. Some years ago I studied for a
Diploma in Total Quality Management. One topic I looked at was the role of
Governors in schools and discovered that of the 100 most 'failing' schools,
none had any support by their Governing Bodies. Perhaps, I wonder, was the
appointment of two new Governors with educational experience just too much
for Mrs Whelan to cope with?

4. The access by parents to the Governors is essential to the running of
a good school. The Governors are the eyes and ears of the school:  they
listen to parents' concerns, they organise meetings and often are an
interface to the school.  Above all, it is essential that the school
maintains a reliable complaints link to the Governors - I could not find
such a link on the website.

5. But the main issue here is to Mrs Whelan's objection to Mike Ward
moving his allegiance from 'Independent' to UKIP.  This is political
dynamite! When does one's political preference debar one from holding office?
In most schools' Governing Bodies, there are Councillors of various political
persuasions. Is it really possible for any Headteacher to object to the
political stance of any Governor? Is this discrimination? What legal
justification does Mrs Whelan have for her action?

6. Perhaps Mrs Whelan is ignorant or badly informed of UKIP's stance on
issues that would affect her School? As an educationist, I can only say that
UKIP's position on educational matters is like a breath of fresh air -
perhaps this is what she is frightened of? Rather than a 'one size fits
all' view of schools, she should be the first to recognise UKIP's consistent
message of 'local policies for local people'. Sometimes a Grammar School
might be appropriate, other times a Free School or Academy, in other
situations an upper-school Technical College might be appropriate. In such
situations it is the Governors of the School who would support the
application for conversion.

7. Another 'breath of fresh air' on education matters is UKIP's view on
school examinations. As Paul Nuttall states, 'ONE examination board for
GCSEs and ONE for 'A'-levels, offering ONE course for the relevant subject.
Ending the option for schools to choose the easiest syllabus available.'

8. UKIP would end the trend to shut Special Schools.

9. UKIP would scrap tuition fees for able students following Science,
Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine.

10.The advantages of having a member of UKIP who understands the above
issues as a member or even Chair of her Governors is a gift that Mrs Whelan
should not despise.

I just hope that Mrs Whelan can recant before things get silly.

Yours, etc

R J Tolley
Retired Director of Technology
Governor in a large Academy
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

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