School 'correct' to suspend head teacher
An investigation into the headteacher of the Scilly Isles' only school has revealed "serious issues" of financial irregularities and "inappropriate content" on his laptop, according to a council statement.
A leading Scillonian councillor yesterday commented on evidence he had seen by auditors in a report about Five Islands School regarding former headteacher Bryce Wilby.
David Pearson, lead member for children's' services at the unitary authority, said he had seen information gathered by the auditors appointed to go through the school records and Mr Wilby's affairs there. He said that the "evidence justifies the suspension from duty of the former headmaster" and that he was convinced the actions of those concerned were correct.
However, his surprising statement will be interpreted by many as an attempt by the council to recapture the moral high ground after weeks of bad publicity.
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Mr Pearson, who along with the director Penny Penn-Howard, is responsible on a statutory basis for the welfare of children on the Islands, said he just wanted the community to heal after a tumultuous summer.
"I believe it will now help the whole community and in particular the school, for me to clarify, that I have seen the evidence provided by the Auditors from the school," he said.
"The evidence justifies the suspension from duty of the former headmaster, Bryce Wilby, and the beginning of a full investigation."
Mr Pearson said he was briefed by the Director, ahead of her presenting the information to governors on May 18 "which led to their decision to suspend Mr Wilby.
"I agreed with her actions and that the Governors' decision was correct in the circumstances to ensure any investigation was not impeded." He went on to hint at the manner of what investigators have found.
"Serious issues have been raised in terms of financial irregularities and the presence of inappropriate content on the school computer which was solely used by Mr Wilby.
"The work of the auditors continues and it is intended that a report will be presented to Full Council at the end of September.
"I believe that this report will give the community the fullest information possible in legal terms and allow any rifts which have been caused in our community to heal.
"As this is the first day of the new school year, I would also wish to assure school staff that I take seriously their concerns on the mismanagement within the school and will ensure that they receive the continuing professional support of our partners and independent expertise where required.
"Their professionalism and commitment towards the education of our islands' children is greatly valued."
Mr Wilby was suspended on May 18 and subsequently resigned from his post.
Two separate investigations were ordered; one into his management of the school and a second into his leadership after it emerged the majority of staff had signed a vote of no confidence in him.
However, the normally peaceful community has been split by events at the school.
Some have suggested the action against Mr Wilby was motivated by a desire to stop him from taking the school to academy status – however this has been strongly denied by Peter Lawrence-Roberts, council director of finance.
Last week the Western Morning News revealed the contents of an email which showed chief executive Phillip Hygate had been discussing Mr Wilby's suspension in the days beforehand.
The WMN was unable to contact either Mr Wilby or his union representative.