Parents want to know why Hove Park head went to Saudi Arabia

9 June 2014

 Dear Mike Nicholls, Chair of Board of Governors, and Governors

 Further to a letter and Freedom of Information request from a Hove Park School parent on 5th May 2014, which has yet to receive a reply and is now in breach of the law, we are now requesting further information under the Freedom of Information Act. This is outlined below.

We are  aware that several overseas trips have been made by staff at Hove Park School during term time and would like details of these.  

We understand that the Deputy Head/ Business Manager, Niel MacLeod, returned from a trip to China last week. We understand that the head teacher of Hove Park School, Mr Derek Trimmer, and a member of the Digital Leaders team, went on a trip to Saudi Arabia, courtesy of Apple Inc, returning on 28th April 2014.

We understand there have also been trips to Germany and Copenhagen, Denmark, by staff members. We understand staff also attended a four-day conference in London.

What were the precise dates of the trips, as they would appear to have taken place during term time and on school days? Were the trips agreed on the basis of leave of absence with pay?

 Please supply the details of all these trips including:

• Name of staff member 

• Dates and destination of each trip

• Were the trips on the basis of leave of absence with pay?

• What is the educational justification/relevance of these trips?

Clearly there will have been approval for each of these trips, including Mr Trimmer’s to Saudi Arabia. What was the process for authorising each of these trips?  Was it the Chair’s delegated action, a personnel decision approved by the Finance & Management Committee or a decision from the full governing body?

What classroom and management cover was provided while these staff members were on these trips and how this was paid for? Why is it deemed a good use of teachers’ and senior managers’ time to go on these trips in terms of learning outcomes for children and continuing professional development for staff?

How were the costs of flights and accommodation paid for on all these trips?

We also understand that Assistant Head Teacher Phil Byrne is heavily involved in showing visitors round Hove Park School on tours to demonstrate the Learning Transformation Project. This involves finding cover for many of his own timetabled lessons.

We require a breakdown of the number of hours that Mr Byrne’s lessons have been covered in the period since the Learning Transformation Project began. How is the cost of this teaching cover being met? Why is it deemed a good use of Mr Byrne’s time to conduct tours of the school in terms of learning outcomes for children at Hove Park School, and especially for those timetabled to have lessons with him?

We also understand that subject department budgets at Hove Park School are being cut and are concerned that this relates directly to the £67k overspend on the Learning Transformation Project, which was reported in the Governors’ minutes. What were the individual department budgets for 2013-2014 and what budgets are planned for 2014-15 academic year?

As the governing body we trust that you recognise that these are very serious questions that go right to the heart of the governance, finance, purpose and ethos of Hove Park as a local authority school.

Given that the school is seeking conversion to academy status, these questions are even more critical. Should Hove Park become an academy, the Senior Leadership Team will have more responsibility (or ‘freedom’), no accountability to the local authority and a less accountable governing body as the school acquires ‘trustees’ instead of Governors. If the SLT is indeed failing to follow procedure, including the failure to comply with our request for information, we are duly concerned that the situation would only worsen post conversion.

As parents, we ask that answers to our many questions are provided as a matter of urgency.

This letter will be posted on the Hands Off Hove Park website and circulated to press and other stakeholders.

Sent on behalf of 170 members of the Hands Off Hove Park School campaign group


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