by Press Officer on 25 September, 2012
WHAAG (Worthing High Academy Action Group) today challenges Tony Cohen, Chair of Governors at Worthing High to be straightforward and transparent about recent events at the school. WHAAG has only ever sought to ask challenging and relevant questions about the school’s academy conversion application and its consultation with parents and the community, most of which remain unanswered. We have done this, as a group of parents and prospective parents, because we care about the school and its staff. This consultation process, under Tony Cohen’s leadership, has been characterised by evasion, misinformation and silence.
We now have to ask possibly the most serious question of all, which will concern parents and teachers, whether they are pro academy or not:
Why is Worthing High School the subject of an investigation led by West Sussex County Council?
An investigation so serious that Michael Gove will not decide on the academy conversion until its findings are reported. In his letter to Tony Cohen of 6th August, which was released by the school to WHAAG, following our request under Freedom of Information, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, writes,
“I understand that West Sussex County Council is currently conducting investigations at the school. I will take the findings into account in deciding whether or not to enter into the Funding Agreement.”
This significant information was omitted from the school’s press release at the end of August, declaring that it had been awarded an Academy Order.
This is an extraordinary situation and one that needs urgent, transparent and full explanation by Tony Cohen. He must recognise he has a duty to come clean about the situation at Worthing High and to withdraw the academy application, pending a full enquiry. As an academy, Worthing High would be independent from and unaccountable to West Sussex County Council. As the Department for Education Academy Order states:
“On the conversion date West Sussex County Council shall cease to maintain Worthing High School”.
It is therefore crucial that before academy status can be even contemplated, parents and the community have confidence that the leadership and Governing Body are the fit and proper people to take the school out of WSSC oversight.
Moreover, it is alarming and somewhat ironic that the very Local Authority that Tony Cohen seeks to cut ties from, by becoming an academy, is currently engaged in “investigations” at the school.
In recent days, a few individuals, and notably Tim Loughton MP, has suggested that the WHAAG campaign may be connected to Alison Beer’s resignation as Headteacher. In the light of these “investigations” we now respectfully request the full truth and insist that Tim Loughton retracts his allegations.
We now await full disclosure from Tony Cohen – the students, parents and teachers of Worthing High School deserve nothing less.
Sue Venables (WHS parent)
Sarah Maynard (prospective parent)
Mark Slatter (prospective parent)
Jenny Nelson (prospective parent)
Linda McVeigh (WHS parent)