Senior leaders of Beaulieu Convent School have apologised to parents for distress caused by a lack of communication over recent management changes, as the school released a critical report shedding light on leadership failings and "inconsistencies in the quality of teaching".
The Independent Jersey Schools Review Framework report also concluded that some staff had been "over-generous" in their self-assessment and that recent changes in senior leadership and poor communication had led to "a lack of accountability and a dip in educational standards".
A survey found staff to be "loyal" to the school, but some staff members "expressed anxiety about leadership, communication, their workload and falling morale".
A meeting on Thursday night was arranged after numerous Beaulieu parents voiced concerns in December about the sudden departure of Head of School Andrea Firby - whose exit led to a petition being signed by more than 1,000 people - and a subsequent controversial restructuring of the school’s senior management.
Pictured: Mrs Firby had been "the face of Beaulieu" for over a decade.
Addressing parents at the meeting, Chair of Trustees, Bernadette Cooper acknowledged that "the situation over Christmas was not handled well and communication was unclear".
"We are sorry for the justifiable distress and uncertainty felt by parents, students and staff," she said. "Trustees are committed to ensure that, moving forward, senior leaders are held sufficiently accountable and that the Trustees remain actively involved in the leadership of the School."
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Sister Geraldine added that she was also "deeply sorry" for the Board’s failure to provide "sufficient reassurance and information at this difficult time".
She explained that, over the past six months, it had become "increasingly clear" that "all was not well" at Beaulieu.
Pictured: It was confirmed that Mr Beirne, former CEO and Headmaster, is currently away from the school on sick leave.
In her speech to parents, Sister Geraldine said that despite "lengthy reports and feedback on all aspects of school life, too much was taken at face value and not sufficiently challenged".
She admitted: "We recognise that we have not held senior leaders sufficiently accountable."
Sister Geraldine also confirmed that former Headteacher and CEO, Chris Beirne – who recently stepped down into the "less visible" role of Executive Director amidst criticism – is currently on sick leave.
However, she reassured parents thar Mr Beirne is no longer a member of the Executive Leadership Team or engaged in any Directors’ decisions, and confirmed that matters relating to his retirement will be negotiated with him when he is well enough.
No further details were provided at the meeting about the controversial departure of popular staff member Mrs Firby, whose rapid exit prompted the launch of an 'vote of no confidence' petition calling for her reinstatement.
Marina Mauger of the NASUWT union – who previously described Mrs Firby’s exit as "very worrying" and outlined "mounting" concerns over the running of the school – also issued a statement which was read to parents on Thursday evening.
She said that recent meetings with trustees and management of the school have been "very positive" and confirmed that plans are in place "to resolve the problems that have caused such anxiety" going forwards.
Pictured: Marina Mauger, local representative of the NASUWT teachers' union. (David Ferguson)
At the conclusion of the meeting on Thursday evening, Beaulieu’s senior leaders confirmed that they will be recruiting additional Trustees to strengthen the Board.
The school will also be undertaking an independent review of the corporate governance structure which will be completed by BDO before the Easter Break, with the results due to be shared with parents and staff.
Sister Geraldine also said that the school has committed to engaging a review and advisory service from the Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools to allow them to undertake a review and provide ongoing support.
Beaulieu will also be writing and implementing a School Improvement Plan prior to further official review in April, when CYPES will review the plans that have discuss any further support that is required
It was also confirmed that plans are already in place to begin the process to appoint a new Headteacher, with former Deputy Head Paul Robinson currently acting in the role.
A committee of Beaulieu parents who recently said that their "trust and confidence" in the school had been "eroded" and called for an independent review agreed with the school to not speak to the press following Thursday’s meeting.
However, several parents reached out to anonymously voice their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the meeting.
Pictured: The "vote of no confidence" petition launched in December by "concerned parents" currently has over 1,000 signatures.
"The general consensus of the parents was that [the meeting] was a whitewash," said one parent, explaining that the senior leaders hosting the meeting "refused an open forum for questions at the end", and instead told parents to find individuals afterwards to ask questions.
They added: "This again has infuriated the parents as it was seen as hiding from being asked awkward questions."
Another parent said that "no one is convinced that the staff and trustees who have allowed the school get into this position should be allowed to just say they’re sorry and remain as the ones to fix it", adding that "there is no serious accountability".
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