11th June 2020   •   article
Sikh school trust in Slough told to 'quit or lose funding' by UK government after scathing report

by Barfi Culture Team | @barfi_culture.
Image: Google Maps
The UK Department of Education has taken the rare step of giving a 'Termination Notice' to members and trustees of the Khalsa Secondary Academy in Slough, England, following an inspection last year.

A letter by the Schools Minister Elizabeth Berridge dated Monday 10th June said the government would be terminating funding for the school by 31st October 2020.

It has urged them to transfer the Academy to a new education trust while retaining the Sikh ethos of the school.

The background

In January this year, Ofsted sent a letter to the Academy saying that an unannounced inspection in December 2019 had found that proper recruitment checks had not been carried out on staff and that leaders responsible for pupils' safety had not been properly trained, according to the Slough Observer.

Inspectors wrote in the January report: "Leaders at trust and school level have not followed national requirements, referenced in their own policies, to ensure that they keep pupils safe. Not all staff have received safeguarding training. Many that we spoke to have a superficial knowledge of safeguarding."

In a letter dated 18th February 2020, Dame Dethridge gave a termination warning notice, "because I have concerns that the trust does not have the capacity to make rapid and sustained improvement, particularly in relation to keeping children safe."

The Trust was invited to respond by 10th March.

Its new chair of trustees, Shaminder Rayatt, wrote back in a letter that, "recognised that there had been historical weaknesses in governance and the monitoring of safeguarding by the Trust." She also said the the board had taken significant steps to address concerns by Ofsted.

On 13 May 2020, Ms Rayatt wrote to the Regional Schools Commissioner with an update on changes being made at both Trust and Academy level to address Ofsted's concerns.

But the latest letter says that despite those two updates, "the Regional Schools Commissioner has recommended that the Secretary of State... terminate the funding agreement for the Academy."

The letter, which explains the Dept for Education's reasoning in more detail, is here.

Response to the decision

Shaminder Kaur Rayatt, Chair of Trustees at Khalsa Academies Trust, said: "The timing of your decision is very insensitive and wholly inappropriate because we are in the middle of planning the re-opening of our schools in an unprecedented situation. Your decision should have waited until schools were operating close to normal and after Ofsted had been allowed to visit the school."

Nick Singh Kandola, CEO of the current trust, said: "We have tried very hard to convince the Department For Education to postpone their decision until Ofsted were ready to visit the school, and we are confident that they will rate it as a good school. ... We will be considering all options including a legal challenge."

But a statement sent to the Slough Observer from the Khalsa Secondary Academy Parent Group supported the minister's decision.

It said: "With the greatest of respect, if the trust had operated using Sikh core values, their moral compass would have delivered us an outstanding school and we would not be in this predicament – sadly this is not the case."
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