Isles of Scilly school head's suspension 'breached law'

Bryce Wilby
Image caption Bryce Wilby was suspended in a meeting on 18 May 2012

The suspension of the ex-head teacher of the Isles of Scilly's Five Islands' School breached education law, an unpublished report concludes.

A Department for Education report says the Council of the Isles of Scilly and the school's governing body did not adhere to their legal obligations.

Bryce Wilby was suspended on 18 May 2012 over allegations of financial irregularities, which he denies.

The council and school governors have not yet commented on the conclusions.

The report, a copy of which has been obtained by the BBC, was prompted by alleged breaches of education law and procedures by the council and school governors when they suspended Mr Wilby.

'Undue pressure'

The council and the governing body have until Thursday to refute the findings.

They have been warned that Education Secretary Michael Gove is minded to issue a notice saying both bodies failed to discharge some of their statutory duties.

These included the council not writing to the governing body or Mr Wilby to outline their concerns about him before the meeting at which his suspension was discussed.

The report stated: "When the council requested the governors' meeting be convened, it did not inform the governors or the head teacher of the purpose of the meeting, only that if concerned 'staffing matters'."

The inspectors concluded this meant the council did not adhere to its legal obligations.

It also said the council put "undue pressure" on the governors to make a decision about Mr Wilby, on 18 May.

Image caption Five Islands School is on St Mary's

'Improper actions'

The report stated: "The council's insistence that the governors make a decision about Mr Wilby's suspension on the evening of May 18 denied governors the opportunity to verify that the governors and council were acting within their legal duties and in accordance with the school's disciplinary policy."

It said council actions regarding some other aspects of the suspension were "improper" but did not breach education law.

A council spokesperson said: "At this time the council does not have any comment to make on an, as yet, unpublished report."

The report was not just critical of the council, it also concluded the school's governors did not follow their legal obligations, "on occasion".

Inspectors said Mr Wilby should have been given an indication of the allegations against him at the time of his suspension and should have been given a chance to meet investigators at the earliest possible opportunity.

Their report also stated some governors should have declared an interest in school staffing matters and left meetings on 18 May and 29 June.

Council advice

Not all the governors should have been present at the meetings, so that some of them could objectively hear an appeal if it arose, inspectors asserted.

By playing no role in the audit inquiry into Mr Wilby, the governors did not correctly follow the school's disciplinary policy, they said.

"Although the council played a significant role in these issues, the duty to establish the procedures and the implied duty to follow those procedures, once established, rested with the governors alone," the report said.

However, it said governors were acting on advice about the suspension, and the wording of the suspension letter, from Cornwall Council.

The report made a number of recommendations about how to improve governance at the school and ensure that education law was not breached again.

In January, Mr Wilby said he was making a formal complaint over his suspension.

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