The council that ‘stole’ Mexborough School

NEW headteacher Mirjam Buhler-Willey.
NEW headteacher Mirjam Buhler-Willey.

DONCASTER Council has swooped to snatch control of Mexborough School, immediately after it was placed in Special Measures following the controversial Ofsted slating.

Bitter governors of the school were “mothballed” for a year at a meeting on Monday night, when they met the Doncaster Council boss who will replace them.

Amid more governors’ resignations, Chris Pratt – the council’s Children and Young People Service director – assumed control of the school until March next year, in a less than convivial meeting.

Chris Pratt, the director of DMBC's Children and Young Person's Service. Picture: Liz Mockler D8089LM

Chris Pratt, the director of DMBC's Children and Young Person's Service. Picture: Liz Mockler D8089LM

After it, the governors issued a statement to the Times, saying: “It is with reluctancy that the governing body acknowledges the findings of the report.

“But in order to move forward, we will continue to work with the school and local authority to build on the improvement that the school has made in the last three years.

“During this time, progress has not been as great as everyone would have hoped. However, significant steps had been made in all areas of school life since the 2007 Ofsted inspection.

“We reached the top 10 per cent of most improved schools in the summer of 2010. This alone emphasises the school’s capacity to make even greater progress while extricating itself from the category of Special Measures.”

The Times reported exclusively last week how governors’ chair Sue Phillips dramatically quit in the immediate aftermath of the Ofsted inspection.

She was followed this week by governor Vernon Martel, who said: “I have tendered my resignation as a local authority governor at Mexborough School following the publication of the recent Ofsted inspection report.

“Since the last Ofsted inspection, governors have made concerted efforts to improve the educational outcomes for the pupils and students at the school. But while certain critical improvements have been made, these have not been sufficient to meet the requirements of the new Ofsted framework.

“I have written to the Director of Education asking him to ensure that the school now receives the support and intervention it requires to provide a ‘high quality’ education for the students and parents.”

Anne Story also handed in her resignation – but told the Times she was standing down for health reasons.

Bitter governors told the Times they had demanded to know why Mexborough had been snatched away from them – pointing out that when “Special Measures” was applied to schools at Conisbrough, Adwick and Thorne, the governors stayed in place.

One said: “Chris Pratt just told us he hadn’t been the boss then”.

Doncaster Council’s ruling cabinet was set to rubber-stamp the decision as the Times went to press.

But a senior governor said: “We have to face it – we’ve been made redundant for a year. Who will be left on the governors after that? I don’t know – we can’t see further than our nose ends.

“We gave Mr Pratt quite a grilling but none of us left the meeting very happy or hopeful for the future. He did say the Government were keen on having Academies.”

Coun Sue Phillips said: “Something has to happen quickly for the sake of the children.

“This move to hand power to Doncaster Council will support the school – but only in the short-term.

“If Mexborough School is going to survive, it’s got to do more and the time has come for an academy here or Mexborough will be left behind.

“Last year, I thought we could stand alone but I’ve been proved wrong. There are problems in Mexborough School and they have been there for a while. But I still think Ofsted’s report was unjustified.

“It seems the governors have not been told everything and there’s been a missing link in the information process for some time.

“But even if the school did nothing at all, when the next Ofsted report is delivered, I think it would still look like there’s been an improvement because there would be a different set of eyes looking at it.

“Having Academy status would provide the man-power to make the changes, and make them stick.

“It’s a hard medicine to take. It’s bitter but it cures the ailment.”

After promising she would talk to the Times, Ms Bühler-Willey then declined, saying any statement would have to come from the council.