Email raises new query on head's departure
A town hall has been plunged into turmoil after a leaked email reopened the debate on who was the prime mover behind the suspension of the head teacher at the Scilly Isles' only school.
The confidential message suggests that action against Five Islands School boss Bryce Wilby was almost considered a fait accompli by the Scilly Council chief executive Phillip Hygate, ahead of governors actually ordering it.
The revelation flies in the face of the authority's insistence that the suspension was a matter for governors and their role was simply advisory.
However, to add to the intrigue it has now emerged that senior directors and members of the council knew nothing of the discussions taking place.
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After being shown the email by the Western Morning News, Peter Lawrence-Roberts, director of finance and resources, issued a strongly worded statement.
"Senior members of the council, and I, as the director responsible for HR (human resources) matters, are very shocked to learn of this leaked email and its contents," he said.
Mr Wilby was suspended following a governors meeting on the evening of May 18, then subsequently resigned.
The email which has been passed to the WMN, makes clear that Mr Hygate was already discussing the matter with senior officers at Cornwall Council, who are contracted to provide advice on complex issues.
Dated May 18, it is a response to Mr Hygate from a senior member of the human resources department at County Hall in Truro.
It contains a draft suspension letter which it says is "constructed in a such a way as to be able to be used by the chairman of the Governors or by you or your nominee on behalf of the council depending on the outcome of the governors meeting later."
The message states there had already been "earlier" communications with officers at Cornwall Council and gives advice on the mechanics of suspending a head teacher.
The existence of the email has sent shock waves through the town hall on Scilly where Mr Lawrence-Roberts said that the chief executive, who returned from holiday yesterday was "the only person able to respond to you on the detailed allegation of council interference in the business of the school Governing Body."
Mr Lawrence-Roberts went on to say: "Regrettably, I do not know what brief Cornwall legal and HR teams were given in this matter.
"It is clear from this email that discussions took place before the Governors met on the evening of 18 May.
"I cannot comment on those discussions as I was not present and have no knowledge of their content.
"Members and I have always acted in good faith on the basis that we were assisting the Governing Body in fulfilling their role at this difficult time."
Mr Hygate was asked to provide a response, but as the WMN went to press had not done so.
The email and response will reopen the debate on Scilly about exactly who engineered Mr Wilby's suspension, with a strong feeling on the islands that some on their local council were the real players.
Ben Julian, who recently took over as chairman of governors at the school said: "At Five Islands School we remain focused on the students' education and building on our recent excellent results."