25 November 2019

Rev Cathy Blair and Rev Jonny Blair's letter: "We would have responded positively..."

On 25 November 2019, the Revs Cathy and Jonny Blair, joint vicars at St Mary's and St James's churches in Walton issued the following letter to their parishioners.

Richard Dunne lives in Cathy and Jonny's parish and Cathy Blair is vice-chair of the LGC (governors) at Ashley school.

The penultimate paragraph in this letter contrasts with a request I made on 16 Oct to discuss what pastoral care was being offered to Mr Dunne. On 17 October I received a reply via an intermediary stating "Cathy tells me RD pastoral care must come from the trust."

Letter follows:

"Dear [parishioner]

Several parents have asked for clarification on some issues concerning the situation at Ashley school and the church. There is so much speculation and conjecture going around, that we felt it would be helpful.

Firstly, the church involvement.

The first thing to say is that the church of St Mary and St John’s has had nothing at all to do with the absence of Mr Dunne during September, October and half of November. Neither does the church have any say in any strategic decisions taken at the school. The leadership of the church have a strong desire to have a good relationship with the schools in the town of Walton on Thames, and especially with the Church of England primary school, because it is the best for the local community.

We are very sorry to see an influential, well-liked co-Head teacher of 18 years depart a school in this way.

Secondly, Governance and curriculum.

Role as Governor. Cathy takes on the role which is required of the incumbent of the parish in which a Church of England school resides to be a Governor. She is deputy chair of Governors. She has had this role since summer 2016.

The role of the Local Governing Committees (LGC) in Academy schools is to be a support and challenge to the Head teacher and Senior leadership team (SLT) on all local issues pertaining to the running of the school, under the Ofsted categories and in accordance with the SIAMS (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools) requirements.

The LGC role (which includes Cathy) is to oversee aspects of budgeting and finance, building projects and site maintenance, health and safety, safeguarding, staffing etc. The Academy Trust (GST) do such things as provide higher level budgeting, services for training, mentoring, employment of staff, legal and HR expertise and run 16 schools concurrently with benefits to all schools, which the County Council previously provided.

Just to say, that leading up to the resignation of Mr Dunne, the LGC had no more information that the GST put out to parents and staff. The focus of the LGC is on support of the Staff to provide the best possible education for the children.

Curriculum and Harmony. As an Academy, the school has had the freedom to develop a broader curriculum including the eco and environmental package that Ashley school offers. This curriculum will stand the school in a good place under the new Ofsted framework, because there is now a requirement to show that learning is broad and embedded, rather than simply good academic achievement.

Specifically, because I know this has come up, such things as the enriched curriculum including Harmony for which the school is well- known, are the choice of the Senior leadership team agreed with the Governors, not the Governors’ choice. This would come under educational decisions which the Trust and LGC support the SLT in making.

Thirdly, pastoral care.

People have asked whether the church has offered pastoral care. We would have responded positively to any request for pastoral support from Mr Dunne and his family as to any request from parishioners.

We are sorry that this whole situation has caused such anxiety. As your church leaders we would like to assure you that we are praying for you and your children at this unsettling time.  We would hope that you would feel able to approach us and ask any questions if you have any further concerns. We hope this helps.


Cathy and Jonny"