Documents reveal extent of rift between head and governors at Richmond School

Documents reveal extent of rift between head and governors at Richmond School

Seb Coe pictured officially opening Richmond School, he is pictured with head teacher Ian Robertson.

Richmond School head Ian Robertson

Richmond School

Richmond School

Richmond School

First published in News

RICHMOND School governors believed the headmaster was acting without authority - and resigned when the local authority failed to back their efforts to bring him in line, reveal documents obtained by The Northern Echo.

The papers shed new light on the background to the bitter dispute which prompted the entire governing body to stand down after being served with a warning notice by North Yorkshire County Council.

The documents - including the former governing body's formal complaint to Ofsted and the Department for Education - reveal that headteacher Ian Robertson was warned by governors that he could face disciplinary proceedings if he continued to take major decisions without their approval.

In response, Mr Robertson made a formal complaint against the chair of the governors, Anne Skeoch, claiming she had unfairly challenged his actions.

By February, when North Yorkshire County Council issued the warning notice, Mr Robertson had resigned as a member of the governing body and an attempt by the authority to mediate between the two parties had failed.

The warning notice included several criticisms of the governing body including a claim that, through the actions of the chair, it had made the body "extremely vulnerable" to charges of constructive dismissal by the headteacher, with "potentially significant financial and reputational damage for the school".

A rebuttal by governors to the notice included in the leaked documents described this claim as the "nub" of the matter, suggesting this was the main reason behind the authority's decision to issue the warning notice.

Governors go on to claim that Mr Robertson has twice previously threatened to resign.

The notice later calls for a new chair of governors to be appointed given the "fundamental breakdown" in the relationship between the current chair and the head.

In response, the former governing body said: "The governing body had no desire to remove the leadership of the body, and in any event no-one wanted to take on the responsibility of dealing with a headteacher who fails to operate within the local authority’s own financial procedures and his own pay and conditions, and whose behaviour is generally not trusted by governors."

They added: "Governors decided unanimously that their statutory duty to monitor and hold to account the leadership of the school was fundamentally undermined by this notice, and even if representations were made to Ofsted and were successful, governors had no faith or trust that the leadership of the school could be ever held properly to account given the local authority’s unqualified support."

In response, North Yorkshire County Council said the Department for Education had endorsed the authority's appointment of an interim executive board to take Richmond School forward under strong governance.

It added: "The board’s priority is to re-establish trust and clear channels of communication between governors, the school and its community.

"In this way board members are acting swiftly to engage openly with parents, local members and members of the previous governing body to ensure that continuity is provided in maintaining the progress the school has been making."

The board's task was to establish a strategic direction for the school, hold the leadership to account and work for the good of all students, the authority said.

It added: "Such strong interim governance is required as a stepping stone towards the establishment of a new and fully constituted governing body in the relatively near future.

The council stressed that it had sought some improvements in the way the previous governing body carried out its work.

It added: "It did not seek the governing body’s resignation and was disappointed that governors chose to take that path.

"The governors had the right to make a formal appeal to Ofsted; a right they decided not to take up."

Former chair of governors, Mrs Skeoch, declined to comment.

Comments (13)

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6:03am Tue 13 May 14

Howardscorton says...

So, while the headteacher was spending more and more time away from school developing his personal empire across the north east, some appalingly poor A Level results were recorded in 2013. Governors wanted him to focus his attention on the obvious problems at his own school rather than on schools from as far apart as York and Teesside. To support his own position the headteacher persuaded NYCC to issue a Warning Notice (now available on Richmond School website) to governors, effectively telling them to leave him to do as he likes. Apparently he has often threatened to resign and to make a claim for constructive dismissal and this struck such fear into officers at NYCC.that they issued the Warning Notice to shut them up.
My son was at Richmond School doing A levels in 2013. He and many of his friends were badly let down that year, being very poorly prepared for their AS exams. As a parent in those circumstances I know where I want the headteacher to be focussing his attention and it isn't in lots of other schools across the region, it is here in Richmond. Let the personal empire building wait until you have your own school in good order.
So, while the headteacher was spending more and more time away from school developing his personal empire across the north east, some appalingly poor A Level results were recorded in 2013. Governors wanted him to focus his attention on the obvious problems at his own school rather than on schools from as far apart as York and Teesside. To support his own position the headteacher persuaded NYCC to issue a Warning Notice (now available on Richmond School website) to governors, effectively telling them to leave him to do as he likes. Apparently he has often threatened to resign and to make a claim for constructive dismissal and this struck such fear into officers at NYCC.that they issued the Warning Notice to shut them up. My son was at Richmond School doing A levels in 2013. He and many of his friends were badly let down that year, being very poorly prepared for their AS exams. As a parent in those circumstances I know where I want the headteacher to be focussing his attention and it isn't in lots of other schools across the region, it is here in Richmond. Let the personal empire building wait until you have your own school in good order. Howardscorton
  • Score: -10

1:52pm Tue 13 May 14

worriede says...

This just goes on. We need to know how much it has cost us the rate payer (tax payer) for the decision by the Headmaster to award the contracts for the work being carried out at the school. A freedom of information request has been submitted to NYCC for them to reveal this information. we now have more good teachers leaving the school it will be interested if we have many applicants for there jobs.
This just goes on. We need to know how much it has cost us the rate payer (tax payer) for the decision by the Headmaster to award the contracts for the work being carried out at the school. A freedom of information request has been submitted to NYCC for them to reveal this information. we now have more good teachers leaving the school it will be interested if we have many applicants for there jobs. worriede
  • Score: -14

9:57pm Tue 13 May 14

Bugstoto says...

Even good supply teachers are avoiding the school now, let alone good subject teachers. News travels fast amongst the teaching fraternity, especially when even NQT's are leaving teaching altogether after experiencing the management at Richmond School. Allegedly there are even people teaching in the school who are related to senior managers who are not qualified to teach - not exactly ideal!! It is time that NYCC manned up and dealt with this matter properly - it would be virtually impossible to bring a constructive dismissal claim into force after being found acting in ways which no doubt constitute at the very least gross misconduct. I am sure everyone is still waiting to see if there is a case initiated for misappropriation of funds too - which also should happen. Don't let a great school get dragged down any further by incompetent senior management who have only self interest at heart!! Grow a pair NYCC and the new governing body and sort this before its too late!!
Even good supply teachers are avoiding the school now, let alone good subject teachers. News travels fast amongst the teaching fraternity, especially when even NQT's are leaving teaching altogether after experiencing the management at Richmond School. Allegedly there are even people teaching in the school who are related to senior managers who are not qualified to teach - not exactly ideal!! It is time that NYCC manned up and dealt with this matter properly - it would be virtually impossible to bring a constructive dismissal claim into force after being found acting in ways which no doubt constitute at the very least gross misconduct. I am sure everyone is still waiting to see if there is a case initiated for misappropriation of funds too - which also should happen. Don't let a great school get dragged down any further by incompetent senior management who have only self interest at heart!! Grow a pair NYCC and the new governing body and sort this before its too late!! Bugstoto
  • Score: -14

6:52am Wed 14 May 14

Howardscorton says...

IF.... A headteacher secretly awards contracts for a £750000 project to a
golfing pal and to another company owned by the husband of chair of
governors at his previous school

IF....His present governors discover this in its latter stages and have to
abort the whole procurement process because of murky practices

IF.... One of those companies gets a payoff because commitments had
been made by the headteacher without the knowledge of anyone at
the school or the LEA

IF The LEAs only response to this is to say "it was all sorted out in the
end, so no problem now"

Isn't something being missed (avoided) here?
IF.... A headteacher secretly awards contracts for a £750000 project to a golfing pal and to another company owned by the husband of chair of governors at his previous school IF....His present governors discover this in its latter stages and have to abort the whole procurement process because of murky practices IF.... One of those companies gets a payoff because commitments had been made by the headteacher without the knowledge of anyone at the school or the LEA IF The LEAs only response to this is to say "it was all sorted out in the end, so no problem now" Isn't something being missed (avoided) here? Howardscorton
  • Score: -15

7:42am Wed 14 May 14

359282 says...

When this Headmaster has finally gone (which is surely inevitable) the tax payers of North Yorkshire should hold the spineless county council officials to account.
When this Headmaster has finally gone (which is surely inevitable) the tax payers of North Yorkshire should hold the spineless county council officials to account. 359282
  • Score: -23

8:07am Wed 14 May 14

worriede says...

Will the Headmaster repay the compensation paid by us for illegally gifting these contracts and why did NYCC not stop this before they were awarded
Will the Headmaster repay the compensation paid by us for illegally gifting these contracts and why did NYCC not stop this before they were awarded worriede
  • Score: -25

8:54pm Sun 18 May 14

Fairplay95 says...

I have watched with dismay and disbelief the inaccurate diatribe that this newspaper has provided access for during the recent changes to the governing body at Richmond school. It has been hijacked by a minority of bitter, twisted and ill-informed amateurs into a personal attack on the present head. As an educational professional with experience and expertise in this area it is time to correct some issues and to provide some truths. I would like to point out I am neither a relative of a child at the school nor of a staff member. Merely a chartered educational assessor and an Ofsted trained teaching observer who has worked alongside several major universities in the North East to develop and provide teacher training opportunities. I have worked with many many schools across the North East to improve and develop staff skills.
I have had the opportunity to work at Richmond school prior to the present head being appointed for a period of 6 to 8 weeks in a range of departments with staff members, as a colleague. What I experienced was not the comfy cosy situation some of your correspondent’s suggest, but an atmosphere of complacency and resistance to change amongst some more established staff members and a feeling of frustration on the part of other newer staff. There were strong elements of the desire for change and improvement from more senior staff but also a feeling of frustration. I have noted that some less dynamic and forward thinking staff have subsequently left the school especially since the arrival of Mr Robertson. I have also had the opportunity to observe practice in The Hermitage School where Mr Robertson was previously head teacher. There was a very strong ethos of support and encouragement amongst staff and pupils alike and some very good practice leading to some excellent results. Relationships with the governing body were also good.
Change is a difficult thing and a desire to improve and develop should not be dismissed as bullying because it means we have to improve our practice. This is a common misconception, and when we are removed from our comfort zone it is unsettling but vital for development and improvement.
It is about time people stopped finding excuses for their own shortcomings and concentrated on the truth, mudslinging will not solve anything. Just because your child did not get the results you WANTED them to, rather than what they were capable of at the time can be caused by a combination of factors including unrealistic expectations. It is easy to post anonymous rhetoric thus excusing yourself responsibility for the real reasons.
This newspaper has not published all the facts, not even when statements have been provided. They have taken a few sentences out of context to suit their own agenda whilst utterly failing to support and encourage the young people of Richmond school, especially on their recent National sporting successes.
If you have a toothache, you do not go to the hairdresser for treatment, so leave education to the professionals and heed their experience and informed practice. The governing body who ‘resigned’ were not professional educationalists and should have worked with the head and senior management rather than against them for the benefit of the children, OUR FUTURE ! That is the most important consideration in all of this sorry affair we should be concentrating on them and that Is what Ian Robertson and the rest of the senior management team are trying to do they need support not false accusations. Incidentally the mudslinging re the use of builders etc. being golfing buddies is absolutely pathetic especially when Mr Robertson has not played golf for a very long time. Richmond are lucky to have such a successful and committed professional to take them forward and it’s about time he and the school got the support they deserve.
I have watched with dismay and disbelief the inaccurate diatribe that this newspaper has provided access for during the recent changes to the governing body at Richmond school. It has been hijacked by a minority of bitter, twisted and ill-informed amateurs into a personal attack on the present head. As an educational professional with experience and expertise in this area it is time to correct some issues and to provide some truths. I would like to point out I am neither a relative of a child at the school nor of a staff member. Merely a chartered educational assessor and an Ofsted trained teaching observer who has worked alongside several major universities in the North East to develop and provide teacher training opportunities. I have worked with many many schools across the North East to improve and develop staff skills. I have had the opportunity to work at Richmond school prior to the present head being appointed for a period of 6 to 8 weeks in a range of departments with staff members, as a colleague. What I experienced was not the comfy cosy situation some of your correspondent’s suggest, but an atmosphere of complacency and resistance to change amongst some more established staff members and a feeling of frustration on the part of other newer staff. There were strong elements of the desire for change and improvement from more senior staff but also a feeling of frustration. I have noted that some less dynamic and forward thinking staff have subsequently left the school especially since the arrival of Mr Robertson. I have also had the opportunity to observe practice in The Hermitage School where Mr Robertson was previously head teacher. There was a very strong ethos of support and encouragement amongst staff and pupils alike and some very good practice leading to some excellent results. Relationships with the governing body were also good. Change is a difficult thing and a desire to improve and develop should not be dismissed as bullying because it means we have to improve our practice. This is a common misconception, and when we are removed from our comfort zone it is unsettling but vital for development and improvement. It is about time people stopped finding excuses for their own shortcomings and concentrated on the truth, mudslinging will not solve anything. Just because your child did not get the results you WANTED them to, rather than what they were capable of at the time can be caused by a combination of factors including unrealistic expectations. It is easy to post anonymous rhetoric thus excusing yourself responsibility for the real reasons. This newspaper has not published all the facts, not even when statements have been provided. They have taken a few sentences out of context to suit their own agenda whilst utterly failing to support and encourage the young people of Richmond school, especially on their recent National sporting successes. If you have a toothache, you do not go to the hairdresser for treatment, so leave education to the professionals and heed their experience and informed practice. The governing body who ‘resigned’ were not professional educationalists and should have worked with the head and senior management rather than against them for the benefit of the children, OUR FUTURE ! That is the most important consideration in all of this sorry affair we should be concentrating on them and that Is what Ian Robertson and the rest of the senior management team are trying to do they need support not false accusations. Incidentally the mudslinging re the use of builders etc. being golfing buddies is absolutely pathetic especially when Mr Robertson has not played golf for a very long time. Richmond are lucky to have such a successful and committed professional to take them forward and it’s about time he and the school got the support they deserve. Fairplay95
  • Score: 10

2:17pm Mon 19 May 14

NCN2014 says...

Fairplay95 wrote:
I have watched with dismay and disbelief the inaccurate diatribe that this newspaper has provided access for during the recent changes to the governing body at Richmond school. It has been hijacked by a minority of bitter, twisted and ill-informed amateurs into a personal attack on the present head. As an educational professional with experience and expertise in this area it is time to correct some issues and to provide some truths. I would like to point out I am neither a relative of a child at the school nor of a staff member. Merely a chartered educational assessor and an Ofsted trained teaching observer who has worked alongside several major universities in the North East to develop and provide teacher training opportunities. I have worked with many many schools across the North East to improve and develop staff skills.
I have had the opportunity to work at Richmond school prior to the present head being appointed for a period of 6 to 8 weeks in a range of departments with staff members, as a colleague. What I experienced was not the comfy cosy situation some of your correspondent’s suggest, but an atmosphere of complacency and resistance to change amongst some more established staff members and a feeling of frustration on the part of other newer staff. There were strong elements of the desire for change and improvement from more senior staff but also a feeling of frustration. I have noted that some less dynamic and forward thinking staff have subsequently left the school especially since the arrival of Mr Robertson. I have also had the opportunity to observe practice in The Hermitage School where Mr Robertson was previously head teacher. There was a very strong ethos of support and encouragement amongst staff and pupils alike and some very good practice leading to some excellent results. Relationships with the governing body were also good.
Change is a difficult thing and a desire to improve and develop should not be dismissed as bullying because it means we have to improve our practice. This is a common misconception, and when we are removed from our comfort zone it is unsettling but vital for development and improvement.
It is about time people stopped finding excuses for their own shortcomings and concentrated on the truth, mudslinging will not solve anything. Just because your child did not get the results you WANTED them to, rather than what they were capable of at the time can be caused by a combination of factors including unrealistic expectations. It is easy to post anonymous rhetoric thus excusing yourself responsibility for the real reasons.
This newspaper has not published all the facts, not even when statements have been provided. They have taken a few sentences out of context to suit their own agenda whilst utterly failing to support and encourage the young people of Richmond school, especially on their recent National sporting successes.
If you have a toothache, you do not go to the hairdresser for treatment, so leave education to the professionals and heed their experience and informed practice. The governing body who ‘resigned’ were not professional educationalists and should have worked with the head and senior management rather than against them for the benefit of the children, OUR FUTURE ! That is the most important consideration in all of this sorry affair we should be concentrating on them and that Is what Ian Robertson and the rest of the senior management team are trying to do they need support not false accusations. Incidentally the mudslinging re the use of builders etc. being golfing buddies is absolutely pathetic especially when Mr Robertson has not played golf for a very long time. Richmond are lucky to have such a successful and committed professional to take them forward and it’s about time he and the school got the support they deserve.
im a former pupil at that school, i can categorically say that the teachers only focus on the A*/A student and dont give a **** about pupils who are struggling, i was always asking for help and every time was not given any, all that Ian Robertson is concerned about is his reputation, how much he makes, league tables and targets. that school has gone significantly down hill since Ian Robertson took over. Him and the senior management team need to be either removed or step down as they are slowly ruining that school, it is like a prison they dont give a **** about the pupils. because of his lack of management and teachers not giving a **** about the students i was forced to resit the year and made to feel like a failure by the members of staff, this shouldnt be what students are made to feel like!!!!!!
[quote][p][bold]Fairplay95[/bold] wrote: I have watched with dismay and disbelief the inaccurate diatribe that this newspaper has provided access for during the recent changes to the governing body at Richmond school. It has been hijacked by a minority of bitter, twisted and ill-informed amateurs into a personal attack on the present head. As an educational professional with experience and expertise in this area it is time to correct some issues and to provide some truths. I would like to point out I am neither a relative of a child at the school nor of a staff member. Merely a chartered educational assessor and an Ofsted trained teaching observer who has worked alongside several major universities in the North East to develop and provide teacher training opportunities. I have worked with many many schools across the North East to improve and develop staff skills. I have had the opportunity to work at Richmond school prior to the present head being appointed for a period of 6 to 8 weeks in a range of departments with staff members, as a colleague. What I experienced was not the comfy cosy situation some of your correspondent’s suggest, but an atmosphere of complacency and resistance to change amongst some more established staff members and a feeling of frustration on the part of other newer staff. There were strong elements of the desire for change and improvement from more senior staff but also a feeling of frustration. I have noted that some less dynamic and forward thinking staff have subsequently left the school especially since the arrival of Mr Robertson. I have also had the opportunity to observe practice in The Hermitage School where Mr Robertson was previously head teacher. There was a very strong ethos of support and encouragement amongst staff and pupils alike and some very good practice leading to some excellent results. Relationships with the governing body were also good. Change is a difficult thing and a desire to improve and develop should not be dismissed as bullying because it means we have to improve our practice. This is a common misconception, and when we are removed from our comfort zone it is unsettling but vital for development and improvement. It is about time people stopped finding excuses for their own shortcomings and concentrated on the truth, mudslinging will not solve anything. Just because your child did not get the results you WANTED them to, rather than what they were capable of at the time can be caused by a combination of factors including unrealistic expectations. It is easy to post anonymous rhetoric thus excusing yourself responsibility for the real reasons. This newspaper has not published all the facts, not even when statements have been provided. They have taken a few sentences out of context to suit their own agenda whilst utterly failing to support and encourage the young people of Richmond school, especially on their recent National sporting successes. If you have a toothache, you do not go to the hairdresser for treatment, so leave education to the professionals and heed their experience and informed practice. The governing body who ‘resigned’ were not professional educationalists and should have worked with the head and senior management rather than against them for the benefit of the children, OUR FUTURE ! That is the most important consideration in all of this sorry affair we should be concentrating on them and that Is what Ian Robertson and the rest of the senior management team are trying to do they need support not false accusations. Incidentally the mudslinging re the use of builders etc. being golfing buddies is absolutely pathetic especially when Mr Robertson has not played golf for a very long time. Richmond are lucky to have such a successful and committed professional to take them forward and it’s about time he and the school got the support they deserve.[/p][/quote]im a former pupil at that school, i can categorically say that the teachers only focus on the A*/A student and dont give a **** about pupils who are struggling, i was always asking for help and every time was not given any, all that Ian Robertson is concerned about is his reputation, how much he makes, league tables and targets. that school has gone significantly down hill since Ian Robertson took over. Him and the senior management team need to be either removed or step down as they are slowly ruining that school, it is like a prison they dont give a **** about the pupils. because of his lack of management and teachers not giving a **** about the students i was forced to resit the year and made to feel like a failure by the members of staff, this shouldnt be what students are made to feel like!!!!!! NCN2014
  • Score: -9

3:06pm Mon 19 May 14

Richmond6 says...

And what about Child Protection

Do you as parents honestly feel your child is safe at this school?

Do you think Mr Robertson and his Merry Men have your child's Health Safety and well being at the heart of their plans?

Do you honestly think the anti bullying policy is there to protect the victim?

Do you honestly think that if your child were suffering they would notice or care?

Do you think that if you asked them to help protect your child they would?

Oh No....... we have the schools reputation to consider

Children have the right feel safe and be safe
Parents have the right to believe this too
And what about Child Protection Do you as parents honestly feel your child is safe at this school? Do you think Mr Robertson and his Merry Men have your child's Health Safety and well being at the heart of their plans? Do you honestly think the anti bullying policy is there to protect the victim? Do you honestly think that if your child were suffering they would notice or care? Do you think that if you asked them to help protect your child they would? Oh No....... we have the schools reputation to consider Children have the right feel safe and be safe Parents have the right to believe this too Richmond6
  • Score: -12

5:15pm Mon 19 May 14

Howardscorton says...

To Fairplay95

You make the headteacher sound like Vladimir Putin, or possibly, Joe Stalin, which is just what everyone else is saying isn't it?
To Fairplay95 You make the headteacher sound like Vladimir Putin, or possibly, Joe Stalin, which is just what everyone else is saying isn't it? Howardscorton
  • Score: -10

5:37pm Wed 21 May 14

Howardscorton says...

Fairplay 95 - (that's anonymous 95 who sneers at others who have posted here anonymously!).
You are very quiet on the subject of bullying by the headteacher exposed on the front page of today's (21.5.14) Northern Echo. Surely they can't be talking about your hero can they?
Fairplay 95 - (that's anonymous 95 who sneers at others who have posted here anonymously!). You are very quiet on the subject of bullying by the headteacher exposed on the front page of today's (21.5.14) Northern Echo. Surely they can't be talking about your hero can they? Howardscorton
  • Score: -10

9:20pm Thu 22 May 14

Purple2jon says...

Why can the Governors and the L.E.A. just not accept that the school is being run by a bully and his bullying management team who have created an overbearing and oppressive regime? Removing the top bully may not be enough as experience shows that the bullies underneath are often even worse than the one at the top!! What a sad situation for those precious students.
Why can the Governors and the L.E.A. just not accept that the school is being run by a bully and his bullying management team who have created an overbearing and oppressive regime? Removing the top bully may not be enough as experience shows that the bullies underneath are often even worse than the one at the top!! What a sad situation for those precious students. Purple2jon
  • Score: -3

5:48pm Mon 26 May 14

Purple2jon says...

My belief is that there are many people out there who agree with my comments but they are frightened to admit that this situation is true and is continuing, and indeed will continue until significant changes are made at this school. The L.E.A. has continued to back the Senior Management of this school, perhaps due to the embarrassment which would ensue if they admitted their own poor judgements and actions ( or should that be inactions?). What a senseless situation which will inevitably carry on for a long time potentially damaging the prospects of so many young people. It is for them that I feel a sense of dismay. Perhaps they could find another school , but there are too many other factors which may prevent this from happening.
My belief is that there are many people out there who agree with my comments but they are frightened to admit that this situation is true and is continuing, and indeed will continue until significant changes are made at this school. The L.E.A. has continued to back the Senior Management of this school, perhaps due to the embarrassment which would ensue if they admitted their own poor judgements and actions ( or should that be inactions?). What a senseless situation which will inevitably carry on for a long time potentially damaging the prospects of so many young people. It is for them that I feel a sense of dismay. Perhaps they could find another school , but there are too many other factors which may prevent this from happening. Purple2jon
  • Score: -2

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