Angry school governor resigns as Abbeyfield School head's departure finalised

James Fox formally leaves Abbeyfield School in August, it has been mutually agreed, but there has been anger about the way his departure has been handled

James Fox formally leaves Abbeyfield School in August, it has been mutually agreed, but there has been anger about the way his departure has been handled

First published in Chippenham by

School governor Bren Jones has resigned in protest over the secrecy surrounding the departure of Abbeyfield headteacher James Fox, which was confirmed on Friday.

A letter issued by Wiltshire Council and the board of governors stated Mr Fox would not be returning to the school and his employment will be terminated by mutual consent from August 2012.

In the meantime the Chippenham school will continue to be led by acting head David Nicholson. He stepped in after it was announced by Wiltshire Council in December that Mr Fox ‘was no longer at his desk’.

Wiltshire Council has come under fire for refusing to reveal the reasons behind Friday’s announcement and retired Wiltshire College lecturer Mr Jones, who was an Abbeyfield governor for just over two years, said very few of the governors have any knowledge about what really went on.

“I am resigning out of pure frustration at the secrecy of what has gone on,” he said.

“None of us have been told anything at all. There are serious questions that need to be raised here. Why has this taken so long? How can it have taken six months? Why aren’t we being given any answers?”

Mr Jones said Mr Fox would be greatly missed.

“Abbeyfield has lost a uniquely talented headteacher, and people need to ask the question ‘Why?’,” he said.

“What’s more, it seems like no one is thinking of the most important thing of all in this – the pupils. This is what we’re all here for – the governors, the staff, and the head.”

It is alleged that an anonymous whistleblower sent a letter to the head of governors, David Sage, who has been in his post for ten years.

However, the contents of the letters were not revealed to the other governors, and instead Wiltshire Council was consulted directly.

Mr Jones said: “It is absolutely in the public interest to know what is going on. I must stress that the staff are doing an absolutely fantastic job under very difficult circumstances, but parents and pupils have been failed by the secrecy of these processes.

“It may well fall to the parents now to force the issue and fight to have this information made public.”

It is believed Mr Fox signed an agreement upon leaving to keep the processes leading up until his departure confidential. Wiltshire Council representatives have refused to release any more information about the issue, including why Mr Fox was suspended in the first place.

Mr Sage said in a statement issued yesterday: “We will be looking to appoint a permanent headteacher in due course but in the meantime we have full faith in the leadership shown by David Nicholson as acting head. Indeed the school is poised to celebrate its best ever results in GCSE and the excellent teaching at the school has been recognised by the official body SSAT which gives Abbeyfield national recognition for being one of the top 10 per cent of schools at adding value to their students’ achievement at GCSE.”

Mr Fox is believed to have faced scores of complaints from teachers about his management style.

But parents have flocked to the Gazette’s website to comment.

One wrote: “The way that the school had been turned around under Mr Fox was the main reason that I put my children into Abbeyfield.

“I think the majority of parents were very pleased with the way that the school was run under him. What a shame that our opinions were not taken into consideration.”

Another said: “All through Mr Fox’s suspension we have been given no information as to why he has not been allowed to carry on as headmaster and no answers have been forthcoming when either governors and the acting head has been asked.”

Comments (8)

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7:47pm Thu 28 Jun 12

rightnotwrong says...

How true, neither Mr Sage or the council have the pupils interest at heart, why all the secrecy, why stop Mr Fox talking , why did Mr Sage not discuss the letter with the other governors before going to the council, what has Mr Sage got to hide. He has managed the whole thing in the worst possible way, his governorship should be terminated.

This has played out like a Shakespeare play, full of people who are not fit to anywhere near
to step in Mr Fox shoes stabbing him in the back, he showed up the ones who are not up to standard, I feel so sorry for all the pupils who will miss out on his excellent skills in bringing out the best in them, and giving them the hunger to succeed.

I wish Mr Fox all the luck for the future, Abbeyfields loss will be someone elses gain.
How true, neither Mr Sage or the council have the pupils interest at heart, why all the secrecy, why stop Mr Fox talking , why did Mr Sage not discuss the letter with the other governors before going to the council, what has Mr Sage got to hide. He has managed the whole thing in the worst possible way, his governorship should be terminated. This has played out like a Shakespeare play, full of people who are not fit to anywhere near to step in Mr Fox shoes stabbing him in the back, he showed up the ones who are not up to standard, I feel so sorry for all the pupils who will miss out on his excellent skills in bringing out the best in them, and giving them the hunger to succeed. I wish Mr Fox all the luck for the future, Abbeyfields loss will be someone elses gain. rightnotwrong
  • Score: 0

6:50pm Sat 30 Jun 12

SitNorm69 says...

I wish those that know nothing would stop guessing. A whistle Blowing Policy is just what it says on the tin if he had done no wrong he would still have his job. Mr Sage has acted correctly. Faced with serious issues he acted accordingly. Information should not be shared with other Governors as the whole point of such a policy is to resolve an issue with an independent body. A court room would not tell the coffee shop over the road what was happening!!
I wish those that know nothing would stop guessing. A whistle Blowing Policy is just what it says on the tin if he had done no wrong he would still have his job. Mr Sage has acted correctly. Faced with serious issues he acted accordingly. Information should not be shared with other Governors as the whole point of such a policy is to resolve an issue with an independent body. A court room would not tell the coffee shop over the road what was happening!! SitNorm69
  • Score: 1

9:20pm Sat 30 Jun 12

Link234 says...

There is a lot of unhappiness about Mr Fox's departure and I don't think those not connected to the school or its community understand why there is such strong feeling about the situation.
There was so much hope that, after the last head's disasterous tenure, Mr Fox was going to turn the school around and show the previous administration just how it's done. Unfortunately this hasn't happened and the disappointment can be felt in the messages which have been posted over the last few weeks.

Such a huge shame. And as for David Sage - words fail me.
There is a lot of unhappiness about Mr Fox's departure and I don't think those not connected to the school or its community understand why there is such strong feeling about the situation. There was so much hope that, after the last head's disasterous tenure, Mr Fox was going to turn the school around and show the previous administration just how it's done. Unfortunately this hasn't happened and the disappointment can be felt in the messages which have been posted over the last few weeks. Such a huge shame. And as for David Sage - words fail me. Link234
  • Score: 0

9:53pm Sun 1 Jul 12

SitNorm69 says...

He inherited a gold mine, four year on year improvements in GCSE results by 2010. Last years results were not his, too busy window dressing and changing the curtains and sofas and oh yes..blazers. He has not been there since the Autumn so this years predicted bumper crop of results are not his again either! Many of those who left did so to escape the madness. After all there is an old saying "don't sit next to the nutter on the bus"
He inherited a gold mine, four year on year improvements in GCSE results by 2010. Last years results were not his, too busy window dressing and changing the curtains and sofas and oh yes..blazers. He has not been there since the Autumn so this years predicted bumper crop of results are not his again either! Many of those who left did so to escape the madness. After all there is an old saying "don't sit next to the nutter on the bus" SitNorm69
  • Score: 0

2:19am Mon 2 Jul 12

Phorever says...

I was looking at secondary schools last September. And I am surprised that people are sad to see this man leave.
Abbyfields was the worst of the three schools I looked at in Chippenham. I would never send my child there.
I was looking at secondary schools last September. And I am surprised that people are sad to see this man leave. Abbyfields was the worst of the three schools I looked at in Chippenham. I would never send my child there. Phorever
  • Score: 0

9:21am Mon 2 Jul 12

Lady-J says...

Well done Mr Jones for standing up for something you belive in, i am sure a lot of parents feel the same about being kept in the dark about the whole situation.
Maybe it is time to look at Mr Sages position and whos interests he is looking after. Talking from personal experience i can safely say it is not the parents or the students.
Well done Mr Jones for standing up for something you belive in, i am sure a lot of parents feel the same about being kept in the dark about the whole situation. Maybe it is time to look at Mr Sages position and whos interests he is looking after. Talking from personal experience i can safely say it is not the parents or the students. Lady-J
  • Score: 0

11:58am Mon 2 Jul 12

Link234 says...

SitNorm69 wrote:
He inherited a gold mine, four year on year improvements in GCSE results by 2010. Last years results were not his, too busy window dressing and changing the curtains and sofas and oh yes..blazers. He has not been there since the Autumn so this years predicted bumper crop of results are not his again either! Many of those who left did so to escape the madness. After all there is an old saying "don't sit next to the nutter on the bus"
Absolutely not as gold mine - there was a lot under the surface which was wrong. Ask the parents - and that was why Phorever found it to be so awful. He had inherited many difficulties he had not had time to address. I'm not saying he was perfect by any means but it is not fair to blame him for the previous mess.
[quote][p][bold]SitNorm69[/bold] wrote: He inherited a gold mine, four year on year improvements in GCSE results by 2010. Last years results were not his, too busy window dressing and changing the curtains and sofas and oh yes..blazers. He has not been there since the Autumn so this years predicted bumper crop of results are not his again either! Many of those who left did so to escape the madness. After all there is an old saying "don't sit next to the nutter on the bus"[/p][/quote]Absolutely not as gold mine - there was a lot under the surface which was wrong. Ask the parents - and that was why Phorever found it to be so awful. He had inherited many difficulties he had not had time to address. I'm not saying he was perfect by any means but it is not fair to blame him for the previous mess. Link234
  • Score: 0

10:54am Fri 6 Jul 12

Roy-Orbit of Chippenham says...

what a shame, he will be missed.
what a shame, he will be missed. Roy-Orbit of Chippenham
  • Score: 0

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