Parents at Chadwell Heath school want independence from trust after turnover of entire governing body
PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:28 09 March 2020
Students and parents braved the rain to protest perceived failings from the trust that runs their Chadwell Heath school after it closed for a coronavirus deep clean in the midst of a turnover of its governing body.
Khalsa Academies Trust (KAT), which runs Atam Academy and two other Sikh schools across the UK, decided to shut down its schools on Thursday and Friday last week for a deep clean because they "have some students of Italian origin" according to a letter sent to parents announcing the closures on Wednesday.
This all took place at the same time as Atam Academy Redbridge's chair of governors, Mankamal Singh, was dismissed and the remaining members of the governing body were told they needed to reapply for their jobs.
The governing body raised whistleblowing concerns about KAT's management after it received a "Financial Notice to Improve" letter from the Education and Skills Funding Agency on February 14.
The Atam Academy parent body held an emergency meeting on Saturday, February 29 to discuss its grave concerns over the management of KAT with parents, school founders, former governors and councillors.
Chairman of Atam Academy parent body Lovepreet Singh Samra said: "These failings are not only deeply alarming, they also tarnish the years of hard work that we have put in with the wider local community in building an outstanding school for east London."
Mankamal Singh, the former chairman of governors, said the governing body believes that his suspension last week was a direct result of the whistleblowing raised to the Education Skills and Funding Authority over their concerns about the leadership of KAT.
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KAT's chair of trustees Shaminder Kaur Rayatt pushed back on those claims and said the restructuring of the governing body was in line with the rules and regulations of running a multi-academy trust.
Mrs Rayatt said: "The Board of Trustees has undertaken a full review of governance arrangements across all schools following recent Ofsted inspections and the Department for Education (DfE) guidance requires a 'single line of accountability' and 'no duplication of governance functions' between the trust and the local school governing body.
"We have, therefore, reviewed the roles and responsibilities and have developed a new governance framework so we are adopting best practice and utilising the differing expertise and experiences of our trustees and governors effectively.
"To facilitate this change, all governors from across our network of schools are being asked to reapply for the new roles.
"This is the fairest way of selection based on skills and experience suited to the new defined roles."
At the meeting on Saturday the parent body expressed their desire to gain independence from KAT in light of all the recent turmoil.
Councillor Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council who attended the protest and Saturday's meeting said: "I'm committed to supporting our local schools and will always be guided by the wishes of school staff, teachers, governors and parents.
"Local people, including parents, school staff and the former governors have made it clear they are concerned about the actions of the academy trust which are having a negative impact on this Outstanding Redbridge school.
"It is essential the voices of the school community are heard."