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KCC forces Simon Langton Girls' Grammar in Canterbury into revote on academy plans

Education bosses are forcing a city grammar to take a fresh vote on controversial academy plans after uncovering “procedural shortcomings”, KentOnline can reveal.

Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar in Canterbury is proposing a switch to academy status – and to sponsor a struggling local secondary in the process.

The head’s plans prompted a furious backlash from parents who feared “privatisation” of the hugely popular grammar.

Pupils protested against the plans
Pupils protested against the plans

Kent County Council launched an investigation after parents raised concerns over Langton governors’ vote last November to form an academy trust and to sponsor ailing Spires Academy.

Patrick Leeson, corporate director of education and young person’s services, has now reported back with his findings.

In a letter to Langton parents and staff, he writes: “KCC...can now confirm that there were other procedural shortcomings.”

Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School
Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School

As the Kentish Gazette newspaper previously reported, among governors who voted was Rob Sellers, an accountant whose firm carries out auditing for Spires.

It was also revealed that Spires trustee Hugh Robinson is husband of Langton head Jane Robinson. Mrs Robinson is also executive principal of Spires.

Mrs Robinson and fellow Langton governor Lady Lisa laws – also a Spires trustee – withdrew from the second round academy vote concerning the spires sponsorship.

While not identifying particular individuals, Mr Leeson writes: “Two governors with a conflict of interest did not remove themselves from the meeting at the appropriate time contrary to the regulations and indeed voted on one of the two votes taken, which may have been contrary to the regulations.”

Former Girls' Langton head teacher Jane Robinson.
Former Girls' Langton head teacher Jane Robinson.

He assures parents that in light of concerns over conflicts of interest, a new vote will be taken by governors on whether to affirm November’s ballot.

“It has been agreed that the governing body will meet again without those who have a conflict of interest being present for the parts of the meeting to which the conflict applies,” he says.

“Those with a conflict of interest will not be permitted to vote on matters to which the conflict applies.

“The governing body will then vote upon whether or not they wish to confirm the decisions taken at the November 25 2015 meeting to apply for academy status and to form a multi academy trust (MAT) including the Spires Academy.”

Kent County Council's education director Patrick Leeson
Kent County Council's education director Patrick Leeson

The National Union of Teachers(NUT) – Britain’s largest teachers’ union – has also confirmed that members within the Langton staff are set to ballot on potential strike action over the proposals.

Dozens of pupils have previously demonstrated on school premises.

The Girls’ Langton has already agreed to extend consultation on the plans and has arranged a second public meeting for parents and other stakeholders.

Next Wednesday’s meeting is expected to draw hundreds of people and parents have requested Canterbury and Whitstable MP Julian Brazier attend.

A KentOnline request for comment on the new vote has been put to the school.

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