FIFA And Greetland Academy School Governance – Same Problem, Different Arena?

Dear Ms Morgan

The ongoing FIFA scandal has alerted me to the fact that many of the standards, behaviours and attitudes being demonstrated by Mr Blatter are worryingly similar to those I experienced when, as an elected parent governor at a Halifax Academy school, I raised serious concerns regarding the conduct of the then Principal, and several ‘senior’ governors including the Chair of the Academy’s governing body.

As you will notice when you read the email below which was sent to the new Principal at the Academy, the concerns I raised are not simply personal opinion. I actually sought what can be reasonably deemed expert input from specific professionals.

As appears to be the case with FIFA, the door was quickly closed on transparent dialogue, efforts to force my compliance with ‘group think’ (which was by no means supported by specialist input), was the rule of the day, and even now, the email to the new Principal, Mr Paul Dixon, which was sent to him on 16th April 2015, has not received a response of any kind.

Ms Morgan, I welcome your thoughts and comments on how a (now former) school governor can pursue such serious concerns when the governing body, or rather specific members of it, makes every effort to avoid transparent dialogue, when OFSTED cannot intervene or investigate as the matter falls outside of their legal remit, and the order of the day is ‘Be quiet and toe the line’.

Ms Morgan, within your remit as Education Secretary, I welcome your response on this matter.

Email of 16th April 2015 to The Greetland Academy Principal

Dear Mr Dixon

I was informed yesterday by my wife that you had this week become the Principal of The Greetland Academy.

As you may be aware, prior to my resignation as an elected parent governor, I raised a raft of serious concerns regarding the behaviour, actions, quality, and indeed possible legality, of some of decisions made and actions taken by your predecessor, Chair of Governors, and Chair of Curriculum and Staffing Committee.

Rather than simply providing my own professional HR opinion on the concerns I raised, professional advice that can be reasonably considered ‘expert’ advice was sought from:-

*The Principal and Chair of governors of a school rated ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED.

*The Department for Education’s independent Governorline service.

*A specialist governance lawyer who also serves as Chair of Governors at a UK university.

*Two highly credible human resources leaders with extensive experience in, and knowledge of recruitment, bullying and harassment and organisational governance.

*A lawyer specialising in data protection and freedom of information legislation.

I share with you the range of specialists I sought guidance from to not only demonstrate to you that I took my role as an elected governor seriously, but also to demonstrate the fact that a range of suitably qualified human resources, education and legal professionals have all stated that the individuals mentioned above, have behaved at the very least unprofessionally, and at worst, possibly illegally – under the guise of The Greetland Academy.

When advised of the facts relating to the serious concerns I raised with your predecessor and Chair of Governors, within their areas of specialism, each of the above individuals advised me that The Greetland Academy, or more to the point, specific members of its staff and governing body, had either breached even the most basic of professional standards, or, rather worryingly, may have even breached relevant governance and employment legislation. Bullying and Harassment of one former, and one current employee, comes immediately to mind Mr Dixon.

Rather than produce an extensive list in this email, my question to you Mr Dixon is this.

As the Principal of The Greetland Academy, and as a professional who holds not just a leadership position, but also a trusted position within the Greetland community, are you open to entering into a candid and transparent dialogue with me to review the facts of the issues I raised with those individuals previously mentioned (rather than hearsay and/or personal opinions), and, commit to taking appropriate retrospective action where right and proper to do so, in relation to the individuals I have previously named in my email correspondence to the Governing Body of The Greetland Academy?

Following my Freedom of Information Act request, one of your colleagues delivered a rather slim envelope to my home address. The contents were apparently the only information The Greetland Academy deemed appropriate to include. It was no surprise to receive such a limited and restricted information pack. Whichever member/s of The Greetland Academy management or governing body authorised and approved the contents chose to use the blanket “Protected by legal privilege” statement with great ease. So restricted was the contents of the envelope that s/he/they didn’t even feel it appropriate or relevant to include information relating to the drumming event I sponsored and organised during my time as an elected governor. Surely Mr Dixon, a drumming event for Year 6 students cannot reasonably be covered by The Greetland Academy’s “Protected by legal privilege” clause and excluded from the envelope, can it, really? It does make me wonder what other information may have been either hidden or buried, and as my schedule will soon allow the opportunity for me to request a public interest request for information from the Information Commissioner’s Office, I fully intend to pursue this line of action as per legal recommendation.

The above, alongside the unfounded and unproven allegations against my wife for allegedly breaching confidentiality, and the manner in which the ‘reprimand’ was delivered (some 200 days following my meeting with your predecessor and Chair of curriculum and staffing committee, and just 30 minutes prior to the end of school term), are simply very real, and extremely worrying examples of what might be reasonably deemed toxic leadership, inept governance and, quite possibly, illegal activity by specific individuals, and on behalf of The Greetland Academy. An organisation that you are now trusted to lead.

Mr Dixon, by no means is it my intention to dampen your spirits or divert your focus from your priorities as you settle into your new role. It is though my intention to honour the very clear commitment I made to the parents who elected me to serve as a parent governor at The Greetland Academy to support the community that I reside in, and you hold a trusted position in. My intention is to hold those individuals involved in these unsavoury matters accountable for their decisions and actions in the specific areas I have raised.

This correspondence is addressed directly to you rather the the Academy’s governing body Mr Dixon. My experience of the governing body’s technical competence, credibility and knowledge in relation to the specific areas I raised do not fill me with faith that they will choose to do anything other than simply comply with the senior, and supposedly competent individuals who hold ‘power’ within the governing body. The reason I did not submit a complaint to the Academy’s governing body was that the Academy’s governing body would be investigating itself, and under the leadership of specific members whom I have raised concerns, and made serious allegations about. You may or may not agree that this would lack any form of independence, and would ultimately be akin to students marking their own homework. Hardly professional, hardly objective, definitely not transparent.

The media is currently littered with examples of groups in organisations which quickly jump in to automatic compliance mode simply because a ‘senior’ or ‘authority’ figure instructs them to. The media is also packed with examples of independent investigations undertaken after the event establishing that group think and auto-compliance were fundamentally flawed and extremely dangerous. This Mr Dixon, may or indeed may not be such an occasion. Alongside my own professional knowledge and expertise in the human resources and leadership arena, those highly qualified professionals I sought independent counsel from do share my view.

In the interests of transparency Mr Dixon, my wife is not aware that I am contacting you. Of course she will know at some point as a broadcast news organisation has expressed an interest in covering the story in the lead up to the general election when education becomes the topic of the day. Copied in on this message is Chris Shaw, the public relations professional who has attracted that interest, and this message will also be sent to the relevant lawyer following their return from holiday.

Please excuse the formality of this correspondence Mr Dixon. Whilst from my experience of collaborating with you resulted in an genuine level of trust and respect, from my perspective, you may understand why an element of formality is required.

I would be grateful if you would advise me by Wednesday morning of next week whether you are open to a meaningful and transparent dialogue regarding these matters. You are welcome to email me or call me or indeed call me on (telephone number removed) if you wish. The risk with the latter is that my wife may be in earshot of any conversation we hold.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Scott Watson signature