I’ve had further information about the changes to the governance of schools in Colyton, Seaton, Shute and Kilmington, and I’ve updated my original post.

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IMG_0387-1220x640After a phone call and correspondence with Babcocks, who work with DCC on schools, I’ve revised the information in my original post. I thought it better to reword that post, so that there is no misleading information in the public domain.

To summarise, I am partially reassured because Seaton, Shute and Kilmington will remain community maintained schools – only Colyton is proposed to transfer to a Multi-Academy Trust – and although the new federations with which all schools will be working are Church of England based, there does not appear to be a requirement that any of the schools (except Colyton?) adopt the religiously-based ethos of the federations.

However other concerns remain, and I still believe that wider discussion of these changes is needed.

Now Seaton, Shute and Kilmington primary schools, as well as Colyton, are proposed to have new governance arrangements: there is a need for full discussion among parents, residents and local councillors

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IMPORTANT NOTE: This post has been revised following a response from the Governance Consultancy at Babcock LDP who work in a joint venture arrangement with DCC to provide services for Devon Schools. (13.2.20, 6 pm)

The Ofsted grading of Colyton Primary School as ‘inadequate’ is having big knock-on effects for their partner schools in Seaton (sports day pictured above), Shute and Kilmington, which make up the Axe Beacon Federation of schools, currently maintained by Devon County Council. According to Babcocks, significant problems have also come to light in the other schools, and the changes are also designed to address these. These are the proposals now being pursued by the Federation Governors with support from Babcocks:

Colyton.  The law requires ‘inadequate’ schools to be transferred to a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), so the Federation governors propose that Colyton be transferred either to First Federation MAT – based in Newton Abbot, but with an ‘East Hub’ which includes Sidmouth, Musbury and Exmouth Brixington primaries, and which is the MAT which has already been brought in to resolve the issues which Ofsted identified – or Acorn MAT, based in Axminster. While Colyton is a not a faith school, both these MATs are Church of England-based. (Incidentally, First has one school, Gatehouse Academy, which was also rated ‘Inadequate’ after First took it over in 2017, but I am told it has since been improved.)

The Axe Beacon Federation. The governors propose that the Federation be dissolved, but the three other schools will remain as maintained schools, albeit working with different partners from Colyton.

Seaton Primary School. I am told this will ‘enter into a partnership’ with FORT Federation, based at Awliscombe primary near Honiton, which also includes Payhembury. These are both C of E schools and the trust has a Christian ethos; Seaton, of course, is not a faith school. However but Babcocks claim that this is not a critical consideration, and that ‘Seaton will remain a community primary school’.

Shute and Kilmington primaries. It is proposed that these schools will become stand-alone primaries but will be overseen by the leadership of the Devon Moors Federation, which as the name suggests is based outside East Devon, including Chittlehampton C of E Primary School, Copplestone Primary School, Filleigh Primary School and Spreyton Primary School.

I am concerned about these proposals on several grounds:

  1. I am concerned that problems in one school, Colyton, which seem to be due partly to the long-term illness of the Federation’s Executive Headteacher, should be the trigger for a wholesale dissolution of the Federation rather than resolving the specific issues in Colyton and indeed in the other schools. However I am reassured that Seaton, Shute and Kilmington will stay as community maintained schools.
  2. I am concerned that the four schools, which are used to working together, will be working with three different trusts or federations, one of which is entirely outside East Devon.
  3. While fully respecting the work the Church of England does in its schools, the transfer of Colyton, a non-faith school, to a faith-based trust is a concern and should have the full-hearted consent of parents. As I understand it, the non-faith character of the other schools will not be changed, although they are working with faith-based federations.
  4. While some information has been provided to Colyton parents, and there is to be a meeting of them with the Governors on 4th March at 6pm, I have not been made aware of information provided to or consultation with parents at the other three schools. Babcocks state that the governors are not required to consult on the changes and that they are in the best interests of children in Seaton, Shute and Kilmington.

In my view, it is essential that these proposals should be the subject of the fullest consultation with parents and the local communities, including the town and parish councils. There have been cases where parents have not accepted the transfer of their school to a trust, and the Secretary of State has reversed that decision.

I will be meeting with Babcocks and the Chair of the Governors on 3rd March and I shall comment further after that. I am interested to hear the views of parents, teachers and other staff: please email me on cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com or phone 07972 760254.

I welcome the EDDC work to stabilise the cliffs at Beer, and have written to ask that similar work be considered at Seaton Hole

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EDDC are undertaking important work to stabilise cliffs at Beer (photo: EDDC), which is essential to protect users of the beach and to maintain the cliff path. I asked Geoff Pook, the ward councillor, and Geoff Jung, the cabinet member for environment, to consider similar work on the mudstone cliffs at Seaton Hole, since the Seaton Beach Management Plan has focused on beach-level upgrades to the revetment and excluded cliff work from its shortlisted projects.

The BMP consultants did, however, identify measures which could be undertaken to protect the mudstone cliffs and I am asking EDDC to consider taking these forward separately from the plan.

Devon for Europe’s defiant declaration

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‘Devon for Europe campaigned hard for a confirmatory vote to allow people to review the reality of Brexit against the promises made by the Leave campaign. It was clear from our interactions on the streets that there is a strong bond with Europe, its people and its values.

Today, many people in Devon will be feeling a huge sense of loss and dismay as we leave the European Union. They will not be celebrating the loss of rights and freedoms that have been the birthright of many or the impact of that loss on those who have chosen to make their lives here. Nor will they be seduced by the UK Government’s spinning of Brexit as a triumph no matter what actually happens to real people’s lives, jobs and opportunities.

Brexit is not ‘done’. The hard part has yet to begin as we negotiate our future relationship with the EU. Brexit’s intrinsic contradictions will have nowhere to hide. We believe that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is not in the interests of our country and is already damaging our international reputation and influence.

Devon for Europe will continue to hold this Government to account as it seeks to bypass parliamentary scrutiny; to call out and correct falsehoods; to uphold and defend our shared European values and to give a voice to the growing body of citizens unhappy with the direction this country is taking politically, economically and socially.’

The Devon for Europe Admin Team – 31 January 2020

Devon’s Europeans have not given up – as the harm caused by Johnson’s hard Brexit becomes clear, our voices will be heard

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I’ve been off the blog for a week or so, so catching up with the events of the last fortnight. First off, on February 1st, the day after the UK left the EU – doing untold damage to the rights and opportunities of future generations – I joined two hundred pro-Europeans on the Yaroslavl Bridge, Exeter. We got a huge amount of support from passing motorists.

As the harm which will be caused by Johnson’s hard Brexit becomes clear – remember Brexit is not ‘done’ and we have a new 31 December cliff-edge – Devon for Europe will be heard again.

County Council budget includes £104,000 for missing section of Seaton-Colyford cycle route

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It’s always good to see the money allocated. £104,000 is in the DCC budget for 2020-21 to complete the missing section on the Stop Line Way in Seaton Wetlands. Negotiations on the route with the landowners are ongoing and I hope to hear about progress soon.

Meanwhile the County Council scrutiny committee on which I sit voted to ask the Cabinet to ask the Government for more money for climate challenges, including public transport and cycling facilities. Some Tory councillors, including Ian Hall, wanted to delay this until the County had prepared its carbon plan, but Lib Dem county councillor Jackie Hook told him, ‘You can’t park something which is an emergency’, and the committee voted by 7 votes (including two Tories) to 5 to send the request to Cabinet.