Thurston Partnership Consultation "hijacked by politicians"

Helen Wilson, Principal of
Thurston Community College
Last week I obtained quite a bit of correspondence from Suffolk County Council under the Freedom of Information Act about the proposed Ixworth Free School and the consultation on the school re-organisation review in the Thurston area.

It is worth remembering that this consultation was started by a partnership of schools in Thurston pyramid and then issued with the support of Suffolk County Council. It was started as a school led process by education professionals in the local area.

Having seen a draft of a letter to the press by Matthew Hancock MP Helen Wilson, Principal of Thurston Community College wrote in an email to Graham Newman who is Suffolk's Portfolio Holder for Education:
Having shared this with the partnership heads this afternoon (with Matthew's permission, of course), we are concerned at the potentially confrontational tone which is suggested by this letter. We feel strongly that, as education professionals (Local Authority + Headteachers) who have thought about the detail of our plan for months, our proposal and imminent consultation process should not now be high jacked by the politicians!
It is clear from the correspondence I have obtained that this is exactly what has happened. Over the course of this week I will publish all of this correspondence and write several blog posts discussing the revelations.

The level of this interference is eye-watering. Matthew Hancock MP re-writes whole chunks of the text of the consultation document. Cllr Joanna Spicer, the local county councillor for the northern part of the area including Ixworth and Stanton argues about the names of places on the front cover of the document and then goes on to make some disparaging remarks about the authors of the document:

Matthew Hancock MP
with Cllr Joanna Spicer
Page 21 - I was horrified to read the text that you have (rightly) deleted - indeed it makes it clear who wrote it. Such subjective statements could have resulted in a legal challenge in many directions ! Is the photograph selected an advertisement ?
Page 21 of the consultation document is about Thurston Community College and it is clear that these remarks are directed at Helen Wilson. The photograph referred to is a picture of the school celebrating its "outstanding" Ofsted judgement in 2010. Quite why this is referred to in this tone I have no idea. I would have thought she would want to celebrate the success of Suffolk's schools.

Photograph on p21 of the Consultation Document
referred to as "an advertisement" by Cllr Joanna Spicer
Indeed Cllr Spicer seems to have an issue with the whole idea of a school-led process:
Page 3 - is the document the "vision" of the Thurston partnership or the vision of Suffoljk County Council ?? Surely if you wish to back it you need to be more clear what the LEA's position is - indeed I believe you risk challenge by making it too much what "they" think rather than what the LEA thinks
Cllr Newman proposes changes to the consultation document to a senior SCC officer and gives this as the reason:
The object of this suggestion is to make the Free School option feel like more of an attractive and attainable objective, which I think will ensure we are fully supported by Matthew Hancock.
This level of political interference would be a concern even if this was just a County Council proposal. But it is not. This is a school-led process. The local schools referred to as "they" by Cllr Spicer. It is clear that these schools have had concerns about this interference and these concerns seem to be well supported by the evidence.

Tomorrow I will detail the "deal" done by politicians behind closed doors that appears to have already decided the future of education in the Thurston area.
Ixworth Free School 9113680990779483203

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