Working group set to examine removal of Bradford school’s governing body

BRADFORD Council’s executive is being asked to set up a working group to examine how the authority removed the governing body of a secondary school linked to the Trojan Horse row.

Governors were replaced by an interim executive board (IEB) at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College last year over concerns about its “actions and effectiveness”.

However the council has faced calls to explain why the decision was taken following a petition signed by more than 1,600 people.

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Bradford Council had applied to then Education Secretary Michael Gove to replace governors with an IEB citing serious concerns about the school governance.

Documents have since been published which show the head teacher felt she had been undermined by some governors and believed there was an agenda to replace her.An Ofsted inspection at the time warned that actions of governors were “undermining the capacity of senior leaders” at Laisterdyke.

It was also reported by a national newspaper that there had been tension over the governing body’s plans to bring in Tahir Alam, then chairman of governors at Park View Academy, in Birmingham, to deliver training. Park View was one of the schools in the Trojan Horse case – where governors and teachers in the city were accused of pursuing an “Islamist” agenda.

However Bradford Council received a 1,622 petition calling for an independent inquiry into how and why it removed governors at Laisterdyke. Now its executive will consider setting up a working group to look at how this was done – following a recommendation by a council scrutiny committee.

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The petition had called for an independent inquiry to get to the truth of why governors were removed.

It said: “The events that led to their removal have been shrouded in controversy and subject to speculation in the national press. It adds “The reality is that governors were removed for holding leaders to account and challenging them robustly enough to reverse the school’s decline”.

The authority’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee recommended that a working party be set up to examine all the evidence about how the governors were removed.

This now looks set to be approved. A report to the council’s executive meeting next Tuesday recommends that councillors should delegate authority to the chief executive in consultation with the council leader to set up the group.

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Former Laisterdyke governor and independent councillor Faisal Khan has welcomed the decision.

He said: “I welcome today’s announcement which has been long overdue, it has taken a tremendous amount of effort and persistence to get this far. I am pleased that as a minimum there is an opportunity to hear and see our evidence...Going forward, I am not sure how the petitioners will be engaged, what the time frame will be but it is essential to ensure that the whole process remains transparent and does not diminish the original terms of the petition.”

Coun leader David Green said: “Everyone associated with the school can be reassured by this open and democratic process, which can be reassured by this open and democratic process which has ensured the petition is given a full and fair hearing. Our concern for the young people of Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College has underpinned all our actions. Bringing in an IEB is a well established process in school improvement, both locally and nationally.” He said it was the authority’s role to challenge governing bodies robustly.

Since 2003 17 IEBs have been set up in Bradford.

Last month Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College submitted documents to the council’s scrutiny committee which contained several criticisms about the actions of former governors at the school.

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It said that a senior vice principal of the school was suspended for “gross insubordination” and was removed from the school by two governors after refusing to authorise a payment to consultants.

The document also said that the governing body had assigned £10,000 of school budget to “an unspecified consultant”

And it said the school’s principal Jen Mcintosh had been undermined by governing body members and believed there was an agenda to replace her.

Last year Coun Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children and young people’s services dismissed the idea of a link between Bradford schools and the Trojan Horse row in Birmingham.