New chair of governors at Sudbury Primary School vows to ‘restore calm’ following headteacher’s suspension

Ian Phillips is the new chair of governors

Ian Phillips is the new chair of governors - Credit: Archant

The chair of governors of a troubled primary school has pledged to restore calm after months of turbulence following the suspension of its headteacher.

Uma Pandya is currently suspended (pic credit: Sudbury Primary School website)

Uma Pandya is currently suspended (pic credit: Sudbury Primary School website) - Credit: Archant

Ian Phillips became chair of governors at Sudbury Primary School in Watford Road, Sudbury, last month following Uma Pandya’s suspension in November amid allegations of ‘gross misconduct’.

Last month, two executive headteachers, Terry Molloy from Claremont High School in Kenton, and Sylvie Libson OBE, from Oakington Manor Primary School in Wembley, also came in to guide acting head teacher Kamini Mistry until Ms Pandya returns or is replaced.

Last week education watchdogs Ofsted published its report downgrading the formerly ‘good’ school saying the leadership ‘requires improvement’.

It highlighted disharmony between the governing body and rifts between staff as the school was downgraded to “requires improvement” despite the other four categories remaining ‘good’.

Sudbury Primary School is in Watford Road

Sudbury Primary School is in Watford Road - Credit: Archant

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Mr Phillips, who is also an accomplished author, said: “Since I’ve been involved I’ve tried to be completely transparent with everybody within the confines of protecting the head’s employment rights which are as sacrosanct as any other employees here.”

One of his first actions was to hold a meeting with parents on January 4 following all “the negative press.”

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Late last year in two secret ballots, The Times reported that more than 40 teachers threatened to strike if Ms Pandya is reinstated.

Mr Phillips said he’d “cross that bridge when we get to it” but they would not be sacked, adding: “They have a right under the law to strike, if the process is appropriate.

“I unionised a publishing company years ago, I’m not anti-union. There’s a highly professional, highly motivated workforce here who are committed to giving their kids the best education.”

Mr Phillips, who is the current chair of governors at sixth form college Woodhouse College, added he would reduce the current governing body which he admitted “could have done a lot better”. He said the qualities needed for “robust” governance included holding the leadership to account, looking after public money and scrutinising the leadership.

He has employed an external investigator to have a fresh look at all evidence and lawyers “from outside Brent” to oversee everything.

He added: “I’m here to resolve the issues and help put the school on an even keel and as a school it performs educationally fantastically.

“I’m not prejudging anything. I realise there’ll be difficult decisions ahead but that’s why I’m chair of governors - to take those decisions and lead the governing body in the right direction in the interests in the school.”

Bob Wharton, former chair of governors at the school, retired on January 31.

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