02 May 2020

Mr Dunne needs your help

Ashley School sign with Mr Dunne's name scrubbed out
The Good Shepherd Trust have referred their allegations against Mr Dunne to the Teacher Regulation Agency, including, weirdly, the ones about safeguarding on the Chamonix trip which were so poor they dropped them at their own internal disciplinary hearing against Mr Dunne last year.

The TRA has the power to remove Mr Dunne from the teacher register. So the three-pronged investigation the GST set in motion early last year in order to grub up some dirt could result in Mr Dunne being struck off for good.

Bearing in mind the findings at the conclusion of that investigation - not signing a form, not signing in and out of a broken entry system etc (you can read all about it here) - and bearing in mind Mr Dunne's detailed refutation of every allegation, this all seems crazily disproportionate.

Nonetheless, it seems Mr Dunne's career is on the line. This message is dated 29 April 2020 and first appeared via the Ashley 4 Transparency email. It reads:
"Dear friends, parents, colleagues and children, 
I hope you are keeping as well as can be expected in these extraordinary times. I am writing this message because I need your help.  
The Good Shepherd Trust has sent a number of allegations about me to the Teacher Regulation Agency.  I believe this is an attempt to get me struck off the teacher register. 
They allege financial impropriety with regard to Charlotte’s catering for the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts workshops five years ago, that the Single Central Record and safeguarding practices were not kept sufficiently up to date, for example I didn't sign up for a course in a timely enough fashion, and that there were safeguarding lapses on last year’s Chamonix trip. 
I believe none of these allegations have any merit whatsoever. I have refuted them all in detail, and I am taking legal action against the Trust.  
Nonetheless, I am told that now the TRA has received the Good Shepherd Trust’s allegations, they will be carrying out their own, separate investigation.
This is where I need your help. If you would be willing to send a character reference for me, I would be enormously grateful.  
My legal advisors (who you so kindly crowdfunded), tell me that character references in these investigations matter a great deal, as the Trust is questioning my professional and personal integrity. In this instance, the more I can get and send on to the TRA, the better.

The references only need to be 3-5 lines long. Please start with “To whom this may concern”, state who you are and your relationship to me (ie parent, ex-parent, former colleague/pupil, friend etc) and then write what you want to write.

Please send your references by email to me at rjdunne64@gmail.com - they will be collated and sent, in confidence, to the TRA.

I still cannot quite believe I am living this nightmare. I only ever wanted the best for your children and Ashley School. For no justifiable reason, the GST has cost me my job and is now trying to further damage my career. 
Your support over the past few months has been one of the things that has kept me and my family going. If you can find the time to email me just a few lines, I would be forever grateful. 
Thank you so much.

Richard Dunne"
According to the Ashley 4 Transparency group, Mr Dunne needs to receive any emails you can send him by 11 May 2020. So if you know him, get writing.

Interestingly, shortly after Mr Dunne's message was circulated by the A4T group, the following email was apparently sent to the staff at Ashley school by the interim head teacher Alex Clark:
"Subject: Advice on responding to RD request for character references 
Dear Colleague  
You may be aware that a post has been put on social media from Mr Dunne.  
Some staff have asked If, as a private individual, you wish to provide Mr Dunne with a character reference, that is your choice.  
If you have any concerns about, or need advice on, ensuring you do not breach any of your employee responsibilities, please contact me. 
It is important for you to be aware, as a Good Shepherd Trust employee, that your statement could be disclosed to all parties in any potential statutory investigation. 
I hope that helps Best wishes, Alex” [my italics]
Concerned this message might dissuade staff from sending a personal reference, a parent lawyer contacted the Teacher Regulation Agency. That parent says they were told unequivocally by the TRA that references are not disclosable.

I wrote to Mr Clark asking where he got his information from about the possible disclosability of references and if he could check its accuracy, especially as what he had written could be seen as an implied threat.

Whilst I was doing that, the parent lawyer went back to the Teacher Regulation Agency, got confirmation of the situation in writing and very kindly shared it with me. It is dated 1 May 2020 and is from Maureen Wills, a senior caseworker at the TRA's teacher misconduct unit. It reads:
"Further to our telephone conversation.

I confirm that:

Character references would need to have a name and signature annotated on the reference as without a name and signature they could be deemed to have been written by anybody and would not add weight. 
Character references are not disclosed to the referrer/employer at any point during a TRA investigation

Kind regards 
Maureen Wills 
Senior Caseworker, Teacher Misconduct Unit
Teaching Regulation Agency
Telephone: 07384521449
Cheylesmore House, 5 Quinton Road, Coventry CV1 2WT"
I hope the above message offers succour to the teachers and staff at Ashley school who want to express their support for Mr Dunne, but who are scared for their jobs. And I checked - emails are fine. They don't have to have a signature.

I asked the GST to comment on Mr Dunne's referral. They told me:
"The Good Shepherd Trust has a statutory duty to make a referral to the Teaching Regulations Agency (TRA) in line with the regulations laid out in Keeping Children Safe In Education. The same statutory guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding children makes it clear that no comment on any case can be made."
I have asked the school's parent governor, and the governor tasked with looking after staff welfare to look into the email sent by Alex Clark. I can't believe that Mr Clark would deliberately mislead his own staff on such an important matter and am looking forward to hearing where he got his incorrect information from.

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