WATCH: Call for independent inquiry after union meeting to discuss Ashlawn School

A meeting held to discuss recent events at Ashlawn School saw parents praise the school but raise questions over the openness of the trust and the former head's six-figure salary.

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 12:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st June 2018, 12:28 pm
The panel. Left to right: Andy Summers, Emma Mort and Kiri Tunks.

Over 100 people attended the meeting at the Benn Hall, which was organised by the NUT (NEU) to attempt to obtain a full explanation after Ashlawn School head Lois Reed left in a cloud of mystery months after the Advertiser revealed her six-figure salary.

No-one from the Transforming Lives Educational Trust - which runs Ashlawn School - was present for the meeting.

A spokesperson told the Advertiser the trust had been as open as possible in recent months and it had received nothing but support from parents and staff, so it was felt to be "appropriate" that no-one was present.

The panel. Left to right: Andy Summers, Emma Mort and Kiri Tunks.

The panel consisted of the national president of the NEU NUT Kiri Tunks, Emma Mort county secretary for the NEU NUT, with the chairman being Andy Summers - media contact for Warwickshire NEU NUT.

Panelists opened the meeting by highlighting perceived national issues around the academy system generally, including accountability, head teacher's salaries and the validity of selecting pupils on ability.

Many parents spoke out to praise the Ofsted outstanding rated school for its academic success, but expressed concerns over how former head Mrs Reed came to receive a salary of around £270,000 and said they were frustrated over a perceived lack of openness from the trust in the months after the head's salary was revealed.

One father of a pupil at Ashlawn School raised concerns over what he described as alleged corruption, and discussed rumours that Mrs Reed was taken away in a police car.

The meeting started at 6pm on Wednesday, June 20.

He said: "I'm really disappointed that the chair of the trust didn't feel it necessary to come here tonight to speak to the parents.

"I've seen two letters from them trying to glaze over why the head has left and they haven't really addressed why the head has left the school.

He said many people are thinking there could be 'something else going on there'.

Adding: "I hear stories, my son comes home and says 'Mrs Reed was taken away in a police car today', and you think kids are just being kids.

"But when you hear that story is being corroborated by teachers at the school, then you're going 'what the hell is going on at the school?'

"That hasn't been addressed by the chairman of the trust, none of us has really talked about this tonight, which is quite surprising... We need answers."

The father said the teachers at Ashlawn do a fantastic job but said they feel "hand-in-the-air frustrated."

He added: "They provide materials for their classrooms out of their own pocket."

Mr Summers said: "The gossip in the early days, that was unfounded, was the reason for suggesting to the trust that they actually were open with the parents to clarify what's happening."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Summers told the Advertiser: "We think it would be very wise for the trust to have a meeting with its parents and face the questions those parents were offering us - because it's quite clear they have not answered them.

"We feel there is now an appetite amongst these parents to know more... we intend to press for an independent inquiry into the whole financial circumstances around both the headship position and the management of finances.

"It could have gone any way. In this meeting people could have said 'I agree with the trust, everything is brilliant'. What we've discovered - if I was in that trust now I would have been alarmed at what was being said and I would be seeking answers myself."