County council declines to release Worthing High School investigation results

W46085H12-strike  - W46089H12-strike   131112  LP''Final strike at Worthing High School . Worthing .
W46085H12-strike - W46089H12-strike 131112 LP''Final strike at Worthing High School . Worthing .

A West Sussex County Council decision not to release the results of investigations into Worthing High School has raised concerns from parents and councillors.

News of the investigations came as the school was in the midst of a controversial decision to convert to academy status.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Bob Smytherman supported strike action over the conversion and has expressed alarm that parents were not being informed of the contents of a report into the investigations.

He said: “I think it is outrageous the report on the investigations at Worthing High School is not being released. Parents should be told what has gone on.”

The investigations were ordered by the school’s governors surrounding the build-up to its conversion to an academy – which triggered the series of three staff strikes.

Last month, the Herald submitted an unsuccessful Freedom of Information Act request to discover the scope of investigations at the school.

When the investigations were launched, the school was under the leadership of former head teacher Alison Beer. It was stated she was not the subject of the investigation, but would not comment further.

Having been at the forefront of the drive to become an academy, Mrs Beer resigned from Worthing High on health grounds just before the summer term. It has since emerged she went on to set up an educational consultancy business.

The conversion has caused a significant political divide, with Liberal Democrats and Conservatives split on the issue. East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton spoke out in favour of its creation.

He believed it would enhance standards at the school, which was a view shared by its management. They have stated Worthing High could miss out on funding amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Government if it did not convert.

Worthing Borough Council deputy leader Bryan Turner put forward a motion which was passed last week, calling on the council to formally support the academy. His motion said he believed action by Lib Dem councillors seemingly supporting the strikes had potentially affected the reputation of the school.

Mr Turner believed the school had done all it could to consult on the move.

He said: “I do not believe standing on a school picket line was something that elected members should be doing. I think academies are a good idea and the school has said it is converting to enable it both gain funding and also to raise teaching standards.”

Peter Griffiths, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for education confirmed there had been two investigations at Worthing High School, but was unable to confirm further details.

He met with the Worthing High Academy Action Group (who had opposed the academy plans) to allay their concerns last month. But Sarah Maynard, of the group, remained unsure of the merits of the move and said all they had asked for was an open public debate on the proposals.

She said: “We have met with the acting head teacher Carolyn Dickinson, which was a pleasant gesture, but she could say nothing of the investigations at the school.”

The Herald approached both Alison Beer and school governors for comment but received no response at the time of going to press.