A CATALOGUE of serious concerns and failings were raised by the outgoing headteacher of the Basildon Academies in a damning letter to the chairman of governors.
In an explosive letter which was leaked to the Echo, Dr Rory Fox, said he had concerns over the sponsor's educational expertise and how governance at the school was also undermining his attempts to take it forward.
Dr Fox, who took garden leave earlier this month after resigning in October, sent a letter to chairman of governors Les Livermore and picked out school sponsor Martin Finegold, who is an American banker and millionaire, for his lack of experience in the education sector and for failing to get outside help for the school.
Dr Fox, who took over as headteacher in September 2011, also claimed his attempts to improve science and English were undermined by Mr Livermore and that he was threatened with disciplinary action if he attempted to get outside help.
In his letter, Dr Fox, said: “I have raised my concerns about the inadequacy of the sponsor’s support.
"We know that this is a matter of concern to the DFE as they have several times said to us that we should consider merging with a bigger academy chain which has a better capacity to support the Academies.
“You and the sponsor have resisted this, yet speaking as the principal of the two Academies I honestly have no idea what, if any, significant educational support the Sponsor provides to our Academies.
“As far as I can tell, I am leading schools out of special measures with no significant educational support at all from the sponsor.”
In the school’s latest monitoring report in September Dr Fox is praised by the inspectors, it said: “As a result of the Principal’s clear vision and strong leadership, inadequate teaching has been largely eliminated as a result of good coaching and professional development, or where teachers have been unable to improve, robust action to remove them.”
Despite this Dr Fox, who was paid in the region of £120,000, quit over a dispute about how he wanted to take the school forward and he was supposed to leave in April.
Two weeks ago he was gagged from speaking to the press and he was marched off the site and put on gardening leave.
His position has been temporarily taken up by Bev Bell, who is the former head of the Crest Girls' Academy, in Brent, who started the job on Monday.
Mrs Bell, who will be in post until July, runs her own education consultancy business.
Dr Fox said in the letter: “I do not feel that the current sponsorship arrangements are in the best educational interests of the children of Basildon.”
He said he thought the school had reached the point where the “current sponsorship arrangements” were not working or doing anything “educationally significant” for the children.”
The Echo sent a copy of the letter to the Department of Education and a spokesman said: “We are very concerned by the performance of these schools. We have been working with the Basildon Academies since last October and we have made clear the action they need to take to turn around both Academies quickly.
“The Academy Trust has recruited an interim Principal with a proven track record and has sought additional external expertise. They report that they are now above the floor standards for the first time. We and Ofsted will continue to closely monitor the schools to ensure that their pupils are getting the education they deserve.”
LES LIVERMORE, CHAIRMAN OF THE GOVERNORS, HITS BACK AT ALLEGATIONS
THE chairman of the governors at the Basildon Academies, Les Livermore, has defended the claims made by Dr Fox in his letter that the current curriculum in place is inadequate.
Mr Livermore said the curriculum was put in place by Dr Fox and that it had been adopted by the governing body.
He said: “It is therefore somewhat difficult for me to understand the comments that our current curriculum is in some way not fit for purpose when this is the very curriculum that was recommended by the principal and adopted by the Governing Body.”
Mr Livermore also said that Dr Fox was at no time stopped by the governing body from seeking help from outside bodies and he denied that Dr Fox was ever threatened with disciplinary action which would undermine attempts to seek help from those bodies.
Academy sponsor Mr Finegold was given three days to answer questions put forward by the Echo and he emailed back saying could all questions be directed to Mr Livermore.
The Echo also tried to call Mr Finegold on several occasions at his London office and after sending the questions to Mr Livermore to answer on behalf of the sponsor Mr Livermore said “I am not a spokesman for the sponsor”.
Mr Livermore said he was investigating how the letter came into the possession of the Echo and he said the letter contained “various inaccuracies” and “distorted” views that did not reflect the opinions of himself, his fellow governors or those members of the senior leadership team he had spoken to.
Mr Livermore defended claims from Dr Fox that he had been undermined in his attempts to move the academy forward and he said those views were “completely untrue and the isolated view of an employee who has resigned”.
He added: “I cannot recall at any time prior to his resignation, did Dr Fox ever raise any concerns about the structure or operation of the Governing Body with me.”