Simon James Governor

At a parent meeting held on the 25th March 2019,Parents were given some hope that the school may remain open into the new academic term.

The meeting which started 7:30pm had the air of doom as parents sat and awaited the news which the Governing body were due to deliver.

The meeting started with a charm offensive and a clear attempt to show the governors in a positive light by showcasing the credentials of each governor and the history each had with the school,this was a clear strategy designed to try and get all parents onside and remove any possible hostility from the situation.

The governing body was represented by Simon James, one of the Governors and a solicitor by trade, who started the discussion by attempting to dispel fears that the Woodard trust was not looking to make a profit on the back of development plans for the site, again this was an attempt to remove the potential hostility towards the governing body and to try and show that every governor was acting with the best interests at heart and in all honesty nobody envied the governing body who were there as faces of the decision to close Abbots Bromley School.

During the meeting the possibility of a sale was raised with a Chinese investor linked,who owns 26 Schools in the Chinese homeland,at this stage things sounded a little less gloomy and a future was potentially mapped out for Abbots Bromley which had raised hopes amongst parents.

However at this stage, Simon James the governor seemed noncommittal on the prospect of a future for the school went onto to provide basic details regarding the take-over, some recap points are as follows:

  • At this current stage, a financial figure has not been agreed but negotiations were ongoing.
  • The investors run 28 schools in China and seem determined to invest in AB and the investors have a track record in education which is proven and successful.
  • At this point, no formal offer has been made, and this prospective buyer came to the table on February 19th 2019, So over a month since the first contact and no financial agreements have yet been reached but it is hoped that talks would soon progress and a succesful outcome would be reached.

Once the basics of the meeting were discussed the Microphone was turned to the audience and questions from the floor were taken.

Many parents raised valid concerns and held Simon James and the governing body to account on the current state of affairs.

Simon James was asked about how the governing body had tried to avoid the crisis developing but he appeared unable or unwilling to provide substantial detail which may have been due to the on going neogitions.

The current financial position of the school was discussed and it was reported that since the year 2015-2016 a 36.6% increase in student numbers, and land and property sales had seen the governing body unable to stem the losses from the school.

Parents asked why different fee structures had not been considered including why fees were not raised.
With 280 pupils in the school a small increase of fees of £357 a term which is around £20 per week on a 52 year week,and this would see the school make enough money to reduce the deficit and operate on a break-even basis.
Had a rise of school fees kept up with other school fee structures over the past 5 years,the school would have banked an additional £1.5 million pounds in that period.

Simon James had explained that the governing body had a basic thought about putting up fees but decided not to,As they were hoping to increase numbers of pupils by keeping fees lower.

What soon became clear in the room was that there was a great love for all of the teachers and the management of the school but patience with the governing body was wearing thin as the lack of information was not comforting to those parents who want to see Abbots Bromley School thrive and move forwards.

Many questions regarding the future of the school will require answers and many questions regarding the governing body will need to be asked but at this moment we should allow the Governors the space to proceed forwards and bring about a succesful conclusion to the take over talks.

The investors were highly praised for the passion for education and the commitment they have made if successful, to allow Abbots Bromley School to continue to thrive as a school.

As many parents will know other schools in the area have benefited greatly under new ownership and have thrived with enhanced facilities, better standards of buildings, investment in sports facilities and boarding facilities.

As it seems one door closes on the Woodard Corporation, it appears the story is set to end similar to that of a football manager, by thanking them for the memories and for trying but now is the start of a new journey, a new day and hopefully a new future for Abbots Bromley School under inspiring new ownership familiar with passionate understanding of education and a solid commitment to wanting the best for Abbots Bromley School.

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