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Trusts may wish to make leadership changes in response to Ofsted inspections, but is it fair to do so?

A recent case assessed whether it was fair to dismiss a senior leader within a mutli-academy trust due to a poor Ofsted rating. This case demonstrates the importance of seeking robust legal advice and support before significant decisions about changes following an Ofsted inspection are reached.

The case

Shortly after Mr Mannix’s appointment as Chief Executive at Plymouth CAST, he predicted that poor Ofsted inspections would be a risk for the 36 schools within the multi-academy trust.

Concerns were expressed early into Mr Mannix’s employment by the regional schools commissioner, who was concerned about the accountability structure of the multi-academy trust.

Once the Ofsted review began and early indications suggested that there was an issue with leadership in the school, the Bishop of Plymouth, Bishop Mark O’Toole, met with the regional schools commissioner, who strongly criticised Mr Mannix’s ability to retrieve the multi-academy trust from the damming results of the report.

As a highly-influential member of its board, Bishop O’Toole dismissed Mr Mannix following a series of events.

The outcome

The tribunal concluded that Bishop O’Toole dismissed Mr Mannix based almost entirely on his meeting with the regional schools commissioner and that he had used his influence to remove and replace Mr Mannix to preserve the reputation of the trust and to satisfy the regional schools commissioner.

In defence, Plymouth CAST claimed that the damming Ofsted result had destroyed their trust and confidence in Mr Mannix.

The tribunal found that the trust did not appraise or investigate Mr Mannix’s performance, nor did they ask him whether he agreed with the report or discuss responding to it, so the trust had not demonstrated reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Mannix lacked capability.

As the trust failed to properly investigate the findings of the Ofsted report, the tribunal also concluded that the trust could not dismiss Mr Mannix based on a loss of trust and confidence, as he had no opportunity to respond to the views of Ofsted or the regional schools commissioner.

With all grounds for dismissal considered inadequate, the tribunal concluded that the dismissal was unfair. The tribunal also found that the trust was liable for Mr Mannix’s costs.

In summary, in certain circumstances, it may be in the best interests of a trust to dismiss senior personnel. However, ensuring that the correct procedures have been followed and the relevant evidence obtained before decisions are reached, protects the education provider from potential tribunal claims.

Had Plymouth CAST carried out an investigation, they may well have been able to fairly dismiss Mr Mannix on capability grounds or for loss of trust and confidence.

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