Church MAT directors quit after being told to listen to 'the community'

Directors of MAT resign following controversy over plans to make primary head redundant

John Roberts

Church MAT directors quit after Bishop of Leicester questioned their decisions

Directors of a Church of England academy chain have resigned after the Bishop of Leicester questioned a controversial move to replace one of its schools' heads in a restructure.

Parents have protested against the decision to make Edy O'Connor, the head of Swinford Primary School, Leicestershire, redundant and appoint a new executive head overseeing two schools.

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The Bishop of Leicester Rt Rev Martyn Snow revealed today that non-executive directors of DLAT had resigned after a meeting with him over the issue.

In a statement, he said: “Leicester Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) and I have continued to advise DLAT to listen to the views of the community in order to inform decisions.

“I asked DLAT directors to meet me to seek reassurance that they are ‘serving both Church and community’ and acting in accordance with the vision and values of the Diocese of Leicester, and these resignations follow that meeting.”

“Given these disappointing developments, both I and our DBE are supporting DLAT Members who are now acting to appoint new DLAT Directors to give fast and effective interim leadership in order to prioritise the best interests of the Trust’s 14 schools, and to make every effort to listen to the views of the community in order to inform their decisions.”

A parents protest group has already written to a Regional Schools Commissioner to ask for Swinford to be rebrokered out of the Diocese of Leicester Academies Trust (DLAT) as a result of the row.  

The case is also set to be raised in Parliament at education questions next week by South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa.

A statement from his office said last week that he had been in “discussions with the Regional Schools Commissioner, the Bishop of Leicester and the Diocese Board of Education in order to mediate between DLAT and parents/carers of pupils before any final restructuring decisions had been made, most significantly to make the school’s head teacher, Edy O’Connor, redundant.”

However it added: “Following attempts at mediation, during which Alberto and the Diocese Board of Education requested that DLAT pause their restructuring until parents/carers had been properly consulted, it is understood that DLAT have ignored these calls and have instead proceeded with their restructuring, informing Mr O’Connor of his redundancy earlier this week."

The office of the Regional Schools Commissioner for East Midlands and the Humber, John Edwards, had replied to the Swinford parents' Save our Head campaign group earlier this week advising them that the school could only “voluntarily transfer to another trust with the agreement of the board of their current trust."

When asked to comment on the request for the school to be rebrokered, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have received a request from Swinford Primary School and have advised the school on the process they need to follow.”

Campaigner Natasha Raven told Tes that parents wanted to rebroker the school away from the DLAT because they felt "completely powerless" to change decision making about their local school.

DLAT have been approached for a comment.

In a previous statement earlier this month, the trust said: “We are having to adapt and evolve our approach to address the financial challenges that we face. This means that there are some very difficult and challenging decisions that need to be addressed. These are not decisions that we take lightly, or in isolation. We would like to thank our community for making their views heard so clearly.

“The strength of feeling that has been shown through our meetings with parents, as well as the correspondence we have received, has been a key part of the extensive conversations that we have had with a number of stakeholders.

“We would like to assure our community that we have left no stone unturned in trying to find a solution.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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