Tuesday, 22 November 2011

St Augustine's governance

The following email has gone out to staff & parents
We are writing to you following the letter from the Headmistress dated 15th November 2011 in which she, amongst other matters, discussed the governance of the School.

The Trustees have confirmed the appointment of the incumbent Governors.  The Governors are:-

Professor A.P. Hemingway (Chair)
Dr. M. Barnard
Professor G. Bennett
Mrs. F. Carey
Deacon A Clark
Dr. M. Dowling-Brannigan
Mrs. A. Kendall
Mrs. C. Phillips

We confirm that the first priority, led by the appointments sub-committee of the Governing Body and TES (Times Educational Supplement), is to continue the search for a new Head Teacher of the highest calibre.

The Governors, with the unreserved support of the Trustees, are committed, with appropriate advice and assistance, to review and update where necessary the Instrument of Government to ensure it provides effective transparent and accountable governance.  This process will commence immediately.  Amongst other objectives, it is hoped that this will prevent the recurrence of the difficulties recently experienced in the relationship between Governors and Trustees.

The Diocese of Westminster, although not having any direct involvement in the School’s governance, has also pledged its support and assistance.

We are committed to build on the School’s undoubted achievements, to continue and build on that success and to support the dedicated and professional Staff in providing education of the highest quality to the Pupils.

Yours faithfully,

Professor Anne Hemingway
Chairman of Governors

David Murphy
Chairman of the Trustees

Mrs Catherine Wilson
Acting Headmistress Elect
A few things here worth noting.

First, whoever was behind the attempt to oust the governors has been decisively defeated, both in terms of the governors' continued presence and in the acknowledgement of the need to review the governance arrangements. All the governors are back in place.

Second, the governors seem to have regained control over the process of appointing the new headteacher.

Third, this outcome appears to have the support of the diocese.

Fourth, it is interesting to note whose signature is absent from the email!

There have been comments on previous articles concerning the past willingness of the governors simply to go along with what Mrs Gumley Mason requested. That criticism can be made of their past behaviour. I'm not sure that it is entirely fair: if they genuinely believed that Mrs Gumley Mason's proposals were in the interest of the school, then it is reasonable for them to accept them. And it is normally a reasonable assumption that a headteacher's proposals are both well-informed and in the interests of the school he or she is head of.

However, since the publication of the ISI report, it seems to me that the governors have recently shown appropriate degrees of independence and professionalism and have managed to get to grips with the difficult situation resulting from the ISI's criticisms, Mrs Gumley Mason's subsequent announcement of her retirement and other recent events. So, whatever criticisms there may be of their past approach, it seems to me that their present approach is clearly working in the interest of the school. And that is what matters the most right now.

I suspect that there has been a whole lot of work going on in the background which hasn't been communicated in parent emails and other public communications. As far as possible, I suggest that the governors communicate more of this background work to the parents. Sorting out the appointment of the new head and the various other issues facing the school is a complex task, and the parents are going to be greatly reassured by open communication of the work that is going on. If it turns out that some task is taking longer than expected because of some unanticipated difficulty, then it is better for the parents to be told so they can understand the issues. The trust of the parents in the school has taken a battering over the last few months and an implemented policy of openness and transparency on the part of the governors can do more than anything else to earn that trust back.


  1. The Gumley Mason's were both fired today by the Governors.

    They will not be returning to the school.

    What a result!

    Well done parents and staff

  2. WOW that sure is a result and no more than both this pair deserved. I hope the school can now move on and prosper. Good luck to all the staff, I am sure the school will be a nicer place to work from now on.

  3. Thank you Mr West, your blog helped so much in exposing Gumley Mason, her husband and Murphy. It was the only forum we had where we could give our views without fear of having our children bullied by speaking out against these people. Very well done, we parents owe you a vote of thanks.

  4. Just one small point.

    The safeguarding policy is not worth the paper on which it is written.

    I think their is the point at which this all started.

  5. Now that the GMs are both gone the next and really most important issues face us. To ensure that the school can re-develop within a supportive and caring governance structure. The danger is that there could be a vacuum left by the GMs after their centralist and stifling management methods.

    Let us all give the school every support necessary and hope that any Governors and Trustees who didn't deliver when they were required to, do the decent thing, and fall on their swords - they know who they are.

  6. Well, very soon the school will be open for its first day free of the Gumley Masons for seventeen years.

    Mr West, thank you.

  7. How do we really know that the GM's have been sacked ? Gossip ?
    The official line is that she is there until the end of this term and I got that from Mrs Wilson personally

  8. Well ask her again 10:20 and see what her answer is now.

  9. 10.20

    Parents were sent Parentmail from both the Governors, and GM herself, confirming her departure, so no it's not GOSSIP.

  10. As a not so old Augustinian, having witnessed the prejudice, discrimination and the corruption of Mrs Gumley-Mason, both my mother and I are delighted at this news. As a student you get to suss out what teachers are like from their level of commitment, the relationship they try to forge with you, and as a teacher, as the head teacher, I found her aggressive, abusive and incredibly demeaning. Thank you Mr West for documenting her downfall so thoroughly, For those of us that have in some ways been affected by the way she ran the school, it is some consolation. Under her time, many wonderful and inspiring teachers have resigned, and I did hear it from one particular teacher that the school 'isn't what it used to be' and that fuelled her desire to resign. I wish Miss Daly all the luck in the world, hopefully under her guide the school will prosper, though personally I feel a completely new and fresh team should have been introduced. It is just such a shame such talented teachers have left due to the treatment of them by her. Old Augustinian, current high school teacher.

  11. 22.02. You are right in everything you say, but there are plenty of good people there to see the school through to next September and beyond. The school survived the French Revolution in Paris, and two world wars, so the Gumley-Mason's will soon enough be a memory...the Gumley-Who's??? you see they're almost forgotten already.
    Nevertheless I was 'just delighted' to read your comment...and new talent would always be welcome at St Augustine's.

  12. "Parents storm school and take headmistress hostage because of falling standards. They demanded improvements are made and that "tyrant" teacher is fired. Police raced into the Roman Catholic Notre-Dame de Caderot school in Marseilles, France, on Tuesday night when the extraordinary occupation began".

    Lucky St Augustine's relocated from France - you got off very lightly Gumley mason!