13 November 2019

A4T update to parents

Circular sent on 13 November 2019 to the A4T whatsapp group by a working group of parents who volunteered to take on a number of tasks on the 21 October meeting upstairs at the Anglers.

"Hi all

A small working group of Ashley parents had a meeting on Monday evening to discuss everything that’s been happening since we met as a large group at the Anglers. This message is to update you. 
Please feel free to share with others in the school community.

Thank you

Thank you so much for your continued efforts to help achieve any sort of clarity on what has been happening at Ashley school not just since Mr Dunne’s sudden unexplained absence, but during the period leading up to it. Many of you have written letters and emails to people who could and should be taking a close interest in what has been happening and we are extremely grateful to you for all the contributions to 
ashleycofetransparency@gmail.com over the course of the last three weeks.

New mailing list

We have decided to set up an email mailing list for concerned Ashley parents/carers and staff members. If you want to join, please emails 
ashleycofetransparency@gmail.com putting “Subscribe” in your email title. Please put your full name in the body of the email - it is not always obvious from your email address!!

Those parents who attended the meeting on 21 October and who provided their email addresses previously will be signed up automatically, and will get this message by email, as well as reading it on the whatsapp group and the Ashley Parents Facebook page. If you attended the meeting, provided your email address and do NOT wish to receive occasional email updates please email 
ashleycofetransparency@gmail.com with the word “Unsubscribe” in your email title. Or just hit unsubscribe when the first email comes through.

The latest

We still do not have any new information on Mr Dunne’s situation, but we have been working hard to engage the GST and governors.

To bring anyone new to this up to speed here is a recap of what has been happening since that meeting was convened:

21 Oct

There was a meeting upstairs at The Anglers in Walton for parents concerned about the absence of Richard Dunne. Out of that meeting a small working group was put together to address the concerns raised and take matters forward.

One of the problems identified was the lack of communication as to what was going on, despite repeated attempts to secure an open meeting with the GST at the school.

There were also questions raised as to what parents can do - and discussions were had about communicating with people of influence to try to get answers in the absence of information. The email addresses of several organisations and individuals including Dominic Raab MP were collated and parents were encouraged to write to them with their concerns.

There was also an agreement that a letter would be sent to the GST asking for a meeting and for several important concerns about the absence of Richard Dunne to be addressed.

Subsequent to that meeting a letter was constructed by a small group of people which was signed by 309 parents and sent to the GST.
Parents also sent their own letters to the GST, the diocese and the governors.

An email inbox (
ashleycofetransparency@gmail.com) was set up for parents to voice concerns which would be put to the GST at any meeting.
An email was sent to the parent governors asking them to engage with parents with concerns in a formal way.

Subsequent to 21 Oct

An email was sent to the parent governors and the GST to request a meeting.
Emails were sent by parents to organisations with oversight of the GST, Ashley School and our MP.

24 October

A statement was released by the GST which said:
“The Trust and the Local Governing Committee want to acknowledge and thank all those parents who have taken time to write letters and contact us, whether to share their concerns about Mr Dunne’s absence or to express their support for the school and appreciation of its staff.

Both the Trust and the Local Governing Committee are very sorry to hear that there is so much speculation about Mr Dunne's absence from school and that this is causing distress and upset amongst some parents.
In previous communications, the Trust has made it clear that it is not currently able to comment on the reasons for Mr Dunne's absence. To do so would breach the confidentiality that he is entitled to as an employee of the Trust.

The Trust understands that these unusual circumstances can sometimes result in frustration. The Trust shares this frustration in not being able to provide more information at this time, which it recognises is extremely challenging for all parties concerned.

The Trust looks forward to communicating more openly and sharing with parents, when it is able to do so. In the meantime, the Trust and the Local Governing Committee will continue to offer support to the school leadership and staff. The Trust will continue to work to resolve the situation as soon as possible on behalf of all the parties involved.”

Also on 24 October

There was a message in the Ashley school newsletter from Jackie Stevens:

We would like to share our vision statement with you: ‘Together we live, love and learn in harmony’ which encompasses all that we are about at Ashley. We have also written a new school prayer which we hope you like: Dear Lord, Help us to grow in our love for learning, Help us to care for each other, Many hands make a building, Many hearts build our school, Help us all to be the best we can, Help unite us together in Harmony, Amen.”

and a note on Harmony:

“OUR CURRICULUM - We have a wonderful curriculum that we are all very proud of. We do our best to link the learning across subjects in the best way we can. We are proud of the Harmony work that the children produce to enhance and understand the meaning of their learning at a deeper level. At times we will block those subjects, such as RE, that can be tricky at times to link. This means that the children can study them in depth over a shorter period of time.”

5 November

A letter was sent by Dominic Raab MP to the Good Shepherd Trust stating:
“I have read the statement dated 24 October from The Good Shepherd Trust (TGST) regarding Ashley Church of England Primary School and its head, Mr Richard Dunne.

I have received numerous emails and letters from worried parents. I appreciate the issues around privacy that TGST have referred to, but I think it is unreasonable for the Trust not to set out any substantive explanation at all for Mr Dunne’s absence after such a long period.

Whatever the reasons, it is incumbent on both Ashley Church of England Primary School and TGST to give parents a measure of transparency with regards to the leadership and governance of the school, even if there is a limit on the detail that can be shared at this stage. I hope you will be in a position to provide a further explanation as soon as possible.

Given the seriousness of the situation, I am copying this letter to the Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, and Ms Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills at Ofsted. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Also on 5 November

A letter was sent by the “majority” of staff (NOT the school senior leadership team) to the GST and the Chair of the school governors Nigel Stapleton expressing extreme concern at Mr Dunne's continuing unexplained absence and paying tribute to his inspirational leadership. The letter also offered unequivocal support to Jackie Stevens.

A source within the school sent a message of support to  parents stating: “most staff share the concerns and are appreciative of what you are doing.”

7 November
A hamper of goodies collected by parents over half term was delivered to the staff. A staff member responded:

“Hello! I’m sure an official thank you will come out but I’d like to personally say thank you SO much for the wonderful goodies in the hampers that you’ve given the staff. We’ve always known what wonderful parents we have at Ashley but this goes above and beyond. Thank you”

And that staff member was right - in the Ashley school newsletter there was a lovely message:

“Dear Parents, the staff would like to send a big thank you for all the treats that you have sent them this week. They are very much appreciated and will be enjoyed for some time to come.”

Also in the newsletter from Jackie Stevens:

“PARENT EMAILS CONCERNING OUR CURRICULUM - I have received a number of emails concerning our curriculum and its delivery. In last week’s newsletter, I did say how proud we are of our curriculum and all the extended learning that makes Ashley the school that it is. The governors have asked me to continue to focus on the wellbeing and education of the children; therefore please do look at the website for any details concerning the curriculum that you wish to know.”

Also on 7 November

A letter was sent by the GST to the parents agreeing a meeting on 18 November with a delegation of four named parents with varying skillsets and children at different years in Ashley.

Another message went out from the parents working group to the parents whatsapp group asking for questions and submissions to the parent delegation, which they would be able to take to the GST on 18 November.

10 November
Parent governors responded to the request for a meeting by suggesting we wait until after 18 November.

11 November
The parents working group meeting approved an agenda for 18 November. The agenda has been submitted to the GST for further discussion. Once the agenda has been agreed by the GST it will be circulated.

It was agreed that a suggestion for a meeting date of 20 November would be sent to the parent governors. At the moment, this is still a meeting between two parents representatives and the two parent governors.

Parents meeting

An open post-GST meeting date and location for parents/carers concerned about the continued absence of Mr Dunne was decided for Mon 25 November somewhere close to central Walton. By that stage we should have been able to circulate the minutes of the GST meeting and get an idea of numbers to sort a suitable venue.

It would be lovely to see as many of you there as possible.

Please share

We are conscious that however you receive this message it is only going to a subset of parents/carers, not every Ashley parent. We have no way of reaching everyone. Therefore if you know a parent/carer who might appreciate receiving this message and might want to come to the meeting on the 25 November, or join the mailing list, please do forward it to them.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thank you for whatever contribution you have made in any way - many hands make light work. We are immensely grateful. And we hope to get some clarity soon.

Ian Birdsey

Lu Digweed
Jules Jones
David Kendall
Raine Peake
Tabitha Siklos
Anna Simms
Lesley Stockman
Andy Stocks
Laura Sutton
Nick Wallis
Karola Zakrzewska"