Falmouth primary King Charles governors “failed”
A PRIMARY school at the centre of a storm of criticism following its damning Ofsted report is to become a sponsored academy, according to a statement issued this week.
Reports released by Cornwall Council after repeated media interest say the governing body of King Charles Primary School, in Falmouth, “failed” in its handling of supply teacher contractors while the head teacher was the director of a company which provided staff to the school.
Head teacher Heather Taylor, meanwhile, says 27 per cent of the £223,000 paid by Cornwall Council to SupplyNet, of which she was a director along with her husband Ian, was for education services. SupplyNet also provided engineering consultancy services.
A heavily redacted internal audit investigation report into the conduct of Mrs Taylor was released on Tuesday. It was carried out in February 2011 but kept secret.
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It is critical of the school’s governing body for failing to ensure “the best interests of the school were secured” in relation to its use of supply teacher agencies.
The school started hiring staff from SupplyNet in September 2009.
The report said: “The governing body failed to establish appropriate arrangements for the school to contract with parties where senior officers have a pecuniary interest.”
“The governing body also failed to recognise the inadequacy of the evidence provided to them in their considerations of whether to whether to contract SupplyNet Limited.”
The damning report criticises the school for its handling of a ‘best value’ review of supply staff contractors.
The review, conducted by the school’s business manager in June 2010, compared SupplyNet with two other local companies, one of which had already provided “poor service” to the school.
The report said the school did not include any regional or national companies in the review, nor did it contact other schools to gauge their experiences.
The Best Value review found SupplyNet to be the cheapest and joint highest in seven qualitative categories and “took assurances” that this was a “sound case” for continuing to use SupplyNet.
“Flowing from this it is suggested that the school was naive in its belief that the review would provide sufficient evidence to confirm that the use of SupplyNet represented categorically the best value for money option,” said the report.
The internal audit found the school had based its decision-making on “flawed” information. , adding that the review failed to “demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt” that SupplyNet was the best supplier.
The internal audit report criticised an earlier investigation into Mrs Taylor in July 2010 – also by Cornwall Council – as “not as robust” as the current one.
The initial investigation revealed governors were concerned about Mrs Taylor’s potential conflict of interest.
But it was concluded that she had not acted in an “underhand or inappropriate manner”.
The second internal audit report said: “In all likelihood the head teacher was acting with the best interests of the school in mind.” and that her actions almost certainly did not result in a loss to the school and may well have resulted in a gain.”
Following both investigations an independent team of governors concluded there had been “no gross professional misconduct” in relation to the recruitment of supply teachers.
The governors wrote to parents in July 2011 assuring them Mrs Taylor had “no case to answer”.
Cornwall Council, the Diocesan Board of Education and the school’s governing body said in a statement this week that it had received “a large number of questions” relating to the school’s governance and financial management after the Ofsted inspection.
However, they were unable to answer all of the questions because the constitution of the governing body has changed significantly.
“As a result of these changes ... it has not proved possible to provide detailed responses to all the specific questions relating to the rationale for decisions taken prior to those changes,” said the statement.
King Charles head teacher Heather Taylor answers questions posed by the West Briton about SupplyNet and the Falmouth school.
HEATHER TAYLOR answered questions from the West Briton through her lawyer this week.
On why the school increased its spend on supply staff from £11,935 in 2008-09 to £40,103 in 2009-10, Mrs Taylor said:
“The school was inspected in September 2009. As is the pattern in schools nationally, the school invested in training and development of its staff to address the issues presented by the inspection.
“A teacher was on maternity leave.
“A member of staff was absent for several months due to ill health.
“The school was supporting a trainee teacher through the Graduate Teacher Programme and the supporting teacher required non-contact time and time to attend meetings.
“The school had three newly qualified teachers who required the statutory 10 per cent non-contact time during their induction period.
“None of the new teachers to the school were appointed through SupplyNet and the maternity cover was not appointed through SupplyNet.
“SupplyNet only provided short-term emergency cover to the school and did not enter into any long-term contracts or charge a recruitment fee.”
On why the school decided to use only one agency during that period, Mrs Taylor said:
“The school did not only use one agency during this period. The school business manager had delegated responsibility for managing supply.
“The school business manager was requested by the governing body to carry out a best value exercise with regard to supply agencies.
“The school business manager considered three agencies; SupplyNet, a local agency and a national agency and completed a best value exercise.
“In the light of the school business manager’s findings, the governing body made the decision to use SupplyNet as a preferred provider, not a sole provider, as it had the best rating on the criteria used to judge best value. The head teacher was not party to these decisions.
“In addition, the school had a small list of supply teachers that were well known to the school. These teachers were paid directly through Cornwall Council.
On why Cornwall Council’s financial year accounts (2009-10) shows a payment for more than £223,000 to SupplyNet, Mrs Taylor said:
“Just 27 per cent of the £223,000 payment to Supplynet by Cornwall Council in 2009-10 was for the education sector of its business.
“SupplyNet served around 20 schools and private nursery schools in Cornwall and employed around 100 temporary staff.
“As the company was relatively new, the profit margin at the time was very low. The net profit was just over £6,000 from the whole of the education sector of the business between 2009 and 2010.
“SupplyNet closed the education sector of its business in December 2010. This resulted in two Cornish people being made redundant and a significant number of local Cornish suppliers