Monday, 6 October 2008


As anyone will know who is a regular visitor to this blog, Tony and myself have been shocked by the Edensor training trip issue, recently highlighted in the media both locally, and across the globe. You will also be aware that, as Governors of Longton High School, Tony and myself have requested an inquiry into this issue, and the Sentinel ran an article about it on Saturday.

On the Sentinel website yesterday, we were both very personally attacked by the ex deputy director of the education department, who stated that we have a personal vendetta against ETC, and that we have over the past few years made decisions which have failed Longton High.

In response to this, we have now removed all references to ETC from this blog, and I would like to make our position clear:

We have absolutely no problem with Edensor Technology College. We know it is a good performing, well populated school. In this respect, it is like many others in the city. What we have a problem with is the need to spend all this money on a training exercise which could have been carried out in the UK for about a third of the cost. It would not matter a jot which city school it was, we would still have asked for an inquiry. Indeed, judging by the comments on the Sentinel website to the many different articles referring to the trip, we are not alone in wanting to have this information.

In no way is it a witch-hunt against Edensor and its staff. Our issue is purely that, as governors, we would not have sanctioned such expense.

It has been a shock to both myself and Tony to be attacked and accused of a vendetta, by this ex Deputy Director. If we have failed in our duty as governors of Longton High, both of us are more than willing to resign. As I said in my Sentinel post, I have served as a governor at 2 city schools, over the past 12 years, and when I agreed to take up the post, it was never indicated to me that I might be abused or attacked for my actions, least of all by an ex education official!

When I became a governor, I never expected to be in a position whereby I would have to make decisions regarding school closures, attend council meetings and making representations to councillors on behalf of the staff, or negotiate with other schools regarding employment issues for our staff. I also never expected to have to defend myself in the local press for questioning something that many, many people on the Sentinel website and much further afield, have condemned.

The decisions we have taken over many years which the ex deputy director alluded to in his Sentinel post, relate to the many different closure options put on the table for Longton High over the past 4 years, by the 2 senior officials at the education department prior to Serco's appointment. The only one which was acceptable to Longton High's governors, staff and parents was the merger and rebuild of a school for Edensor and Longton students, either on the Longton site or somewhere else in the local community. In this project we were willing participants, but the rug was pulled from under us when it was announced by Serco that Edensor would become the predecessor school for the Parkhall Academy, thereby scuppering the merger project.

Unless otherwise requested by the staff and other governors at Longton High, Tony and myself will continue to support the school, to hopefully work with the Local Authority, interested councillors and other schools, to help secure a brighter future for our students and staff. The two go hand in hand. If we don't work towards the best possible outcome for the staff, what hope have the kids got? This is the single most important issue for us as governors. I hope people can respect this and allow us to get on with it without further personal attacks.

Today's Article:


nita said...

Alison, I too was surprised to read the personal attack from an ex LA Officer. We have no axe to grind with him, and have always had positive meetings, even though very often we disagreed with his suggestions.

I would imagine, if the Sentinel had asked the question to any Governing Body across the City, they would have got the same response. "We think it as unacceptable to spend such a large amount of money on a training trip". That is why the public were up in arms too.

I have to say, any of the comments we have made on here, and on the Sentinel Website, are not meant to be personal to Edensor Technology College, Mr Mercer or any of his staff. I repeat, it is a popular school, and is viable, and has been chosen to be the Academy at Park Hall, or wherever it may end up??

Mr Walley and Mrs Cotton, as Governor's know how difficult it can be to run the school budget. Mrs Cotton is Chair Of Finance, and will be fully aware, that you have to spend carefully.

The only reason, they questioned this, is, they felt it was such a large sum of public money, being spent, when maybe, it could have been done for far less. The money saved could have gone on the students. I think that is fair comment.

Having said all of that, it is down to the Governing Body of Edensor to spend how they see fit. If that is what they passed, that is their choice.

I also have to say, sometimes, comments that are put into the Sentinel are not always, word for word, what that person has said.

I hope this clarifies our position, and hope that we can move forward with no ill feelings.

Gary Elsby said...

Howard's comment: "more is the pity" is possibly the best quote of this entire episode.

Perhaps you should investigate these very few, but oh so telling, words closer.

(City LEA Governor 20 years High/Primary)

Anonymous said...

i think its time we spoke in confidence .

how do i conact alison and tony ?


Tony said...

We have made our position clear on this matter. our only motivation for calling for an inquiry was to make sure that this amount of money was not spent on a trip like this again no matter what the school. We are unable and unwilling to get involved further in this matter. Despite being accused of having a vendetta, i assure everyone that we do not.

brooneyes said...

Tony, I think you had every right to register an official complaint over the behaviour of this headmaster. First off, he goes behind the backs of the other educational institutions in Longton, and makes a private deal for himself and his staff with the
LEA. All of a sudden, he's off to Spain with 80 colleagues! Seems to me he's been following Meredith too closely.

dangermouse said...

oh, anita n tony, i was appalled by mr cartlidge's words to you, i am a parent (as you have probably gathered by now)of 2 pupils who attend LHS & have followed the progress of reorganisation quite closely.
I too expressed my opinion about Mr Mercer's actions regarding the spain trip & want an enquiry but under no means has it been a vendetta to the school.
His action's should be looked at.
My friends son goes to ETC & she is also in firm agreement with me.
I do hope Anita Tony you stay with LHS as our governers, we really do appreciate all the hard work n effort you put into our school on behalf of all our kids there a big THANK YOU, Please put those nasty ignorant comments from mr cartlidge behind you.
you have the full support from all us parents.

Tony said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean a lot to me and Nita and especially to Alison who has given alot more than me in terms of time and commitment. In some ways i was sorry that Mr Cartlidge felt he needed to be so venomous in his post and i admit it took us all by shock. I had respect for the man as he gave many years service to our city and whilst we had opposing views on things i did not think he harbored such a grudge. We took all the ETC stuff off the site as we did not want it to look as if we were instigating a campaign against the school.We have NO vendetta against ETC (hence the post to partisan) but think the trip was ill advised and should not have been sanctioned.

Anonymous said...

Howard Cartlidge 1 PitsnPots 0

silly Tony.

Tony said...

Cheers! Thanks for your support! lol

Anonymous said...

It's a blog trick, Tony. Attack you for something else and you go on the defence of something else!

Stick to your guns and hammer ETC if you think they are wrong.


Cartlidge spiked your guns and you ran so scared, you pulled the site. Doh!

Tony said...

Not as simple as that anon, we have to consider the school which we represent and we don't want to drag it into this debate out of respect for the pupils, staff and our head who is 100% professional at all times. I completely take your point though!

Steve said...

Howard Cartlidge, the man who, along with Nigel Rigby, led the education department in Stoke on Trent since it became a Unitary Authority in 1997. Over 10 years, and where is Stoke on Trent as a result? 147th out of 150 cities in the education league table.

Howard, you are to education what Joseph Stalin was to democracy!

nita said...

Steve, you are right, These two people were in charge, and like you say we ended up 147th out of 150 in the table, isn't that why Serco were brought in? That is why it made me chuckle, when he was trying to blame two governor's for all these schools closing. A Governing Body will only agree to go ahead with proposals, if it is in the interests of the school, it represents. Who would have agreed to some of the proposals, when it would have meant the staff and pupils, would have been well and truly shafted? I will still stick by my statement, that for a governing body to authorise a school to go on trip , at such a high cost, is questionable. That does not mean I have a vendetta against ETC, does it? My opinion, was the same voiced by the people of Stoke on Trent.

Anonymous said...

~If i have to do this through official channels I shall but i think for all concerned it would be a better idea if we could meet or speak on the telephone at some point soon again i respectfully request a way in which to contact either of you or both of you as son as is possible .. Perhsps my words would not be as bad you think .

in respect as always


Diane said...

Tony and Alison, I would like to thank you personally for all your support for the staff at LHS over the last few years. I know that you have not made any comments to offend ETC but have as you have said you have questioned the spending of funds.
Please continue to support us as two very excellent governors and friends of the school.

Tony said...

We understand from your posts both on here and on the Sentinel site that you have some information which may compromise your position. Thing is, we are just a small group of community minded people who host this blog so that all people can come on and debate the city issues. If you have information, we are not the people to help you however intriguing it sounds. We wish you luck in your efforts but we will NOT be persuing the ETC story as our sole intention was to pose the question of whether public money should be spent in this fashion and we have been accused of having a vendetta, which we honestly have not. Sorry we can be of no further assistance. With respect, you need to find someone else to assist you.

Gary Elsby said...

Steve: I read your comment denouncing both Nigel Rigby and Howard Cartlidge.
I take it you do not know either.
If they had been alowed to run education their way, ETC would not have booked a trip abroad.
Both Nigel and Howard are highly respected officers and held in the highest esteem by politicians and parents and Nigel is always held up as being the most approachable of all Senior Officers.

To rip off people in such a way detracts from the argument of a school closure and Governors concerns regarding spending.

To make any suggestion that Howard and Nigel ran an inferior education department is a considerable and innacurate slur upon them and to me as a parent that had three children sail through their schools with a 100% success rate.

I witness Howard going on the attack and I know who he is attacking. This part puzzles me.

nita said...

Gary, I have no doubt that Nigel and Howard were very much respected, in their term of office. We had several meetings with Howard, and we always found him to be honest and approachable. If you asked for a meeting, he was readily available. We did not always agree on decisions, and he told it as he saw it. This is why Tony and Alison were shocked, that he should go onto the Sentinel website, and attack them in that manner.

The proposal on the cards at the time was the merger of Mitchell and Longton, on the Willfield site. Both sets of staff/parents did not really want this to happen. I suppose you could say, if they had agreed with the proposal, both schools would not be shutting now, who knows. It certainly isn't the fault of the two governors. Mitchell Governor's were against it, and so were Longton. Ironically, the Academy is to go on virtually the same site. This is a site that Mr Meredith agreed with us, in a meeting arranged by Rob Flello MP, was unsafe. Amazing, that it is now fine to build a school on the gasometer site. One question, why has the building of this Academy being taken out of phase 1, we were told that this buildings was a priority. Do they really know where to put this school?

Debbie said...

Tony Alison ET AL In my opinion the previous ETC Blog was pulled because those running the Blog did not like what people were saying. For a time when I worked for SOT LHS was in special measures and was not an attractive propsition. I agreee with many of Howards comments LHS always wanted to go it alone and were not prepared to consider almalgamation.
Free speech in action Stoke on Trent style.

nita said...

Debbie, you clearly have some connection with ETC, and I would just like to stress, that we at PitsnPots, did not wish to cause anyone at this school any offence, so that is why we removed all our articles. We have no issue with ETC, as we keep saying, it is a popular school, and has the pupil numbers to keep it viable. I am sure the staff are very excited, at the prospect of moving forward into the Academy. LHS has no connection to the Academy does it, so why would we have a vendetta. LHS shuts in 2010, and will be run by Sandon.

Having read the letter by D Brown, in last night's sentinel, I accept what he had to say. He is right, a Governing Body runs its own budget, and it is upto them to spend it as they see fit. However, it is their responsibilty to spend it wisely, that is all I'm going to say. If ETC has that kind of money to spend, then good luck to them.

With hindsight, the figures for this trip were calculated by Radio 5 and a BBC Journalist, which the public took as fact. This was wrong to do so, I accept. Only Mr Mercer, and his Governing Body will know the actual figure.

Tony and Alison put a lot of hours into their Governor's position, just as every Governor of every school does. They would have reacted the same, if it was any other school across the City. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was ETC. I know you probably don't believe that, but that is your opinion, and we won't change that.

Mr Walley's quotes in the Sentinel, were not actually word for word what he said, he would certainly not be so personal. He has read this article over and over, and can see why you could read it to be so.

As for your comments on LHS working on their own, you are wrong. Everyone connected with LHS was happy to have the merger between ETC, and I'm talking of the previous proposals. There are reasons, which I will not put down, that happened along the way, that made the Governing Body step back, and have a rethink. This was nothing against any member of the ETC, I have to say. You should maybe ask your own Head, why procedures slowed down, that is all I'm saying. Maybe his approach, could have been slightly better, but none of us are perfect are we. No offence meant here either. For your information, the members of PisnPots, believed that the merger could have worked. That is why in the current proposals, we had many discussions with MP Rob Flello to move it forwards.

Mr Walley did actually meet with Mr Mercer and Chair of Governors, to discuss the merger, and both agreed that this was the way forward. Whatever happened, we do not know, but it all went quiet, and it was announced that ETC would be the Academy. We cannot be responsible for that surely.

Anyway, we do not want any hard feelings, but that is upto you, to make your mind up. We are certainly not nasty people, and will get on with anyone.

Helen said...

The blog was removed as it was no longer a debate on the issue of whether ETC should have spent £26,000 of tax payers money on a 4 day trip to Marbella but had become an issue of LHS governors having another agenda.
The 2 governors, Tony & Alison have never had any other thoughts but the welfare of the students & staff at LHS.
It is not only Tony & Alison who have made these decisions, the governing body has decided what course of action to take & these decisions have been reached democratically. Decisions have also been made by consulting staff & students too. They have also had the backing of parents, if you had attended meetings on the ludicrous proposals cooked up by Rigby & Cartlidge you would know this.
No LHS have not 'wanted to go it alone', we have wanted what is best for our school not going along with hairbrained schemes.
LHS under special measures was a few years ago & has changed to a good, calm learning environment with professional staff who have shown exceptional dedication to the school & students under very worrying times & should & are applauded by those who actually know what goes on within the school.
Back to the reason for the blog on ETC - it is not only people with connections to LHS who have condemned the spending of the money for trip to Spain but people nationally & internationally.

Tony said...

The articles on ETC were pulled because we felt that it would be insensitive to leave them on after being accused of having a vendetta against ETC. I did not realise that when one becomes a school governor that it disqualifies you from having an opinion as a taxpayer on how public money should be spent. If i am expected to waive my right to free speech then i should be the one to consider my future!
Once again let me make myself perfectly clear please, i have visited ETC and met with Mr Mercer and have no issue with either. That may not suit you or an ex education officers but sorry, it's the truth.
I have one regret and that is making a comment to the Sentinel reporter WHO RANG US, and asked if i thought that MR Mercer should be sacked and i replied that i PERSONALLY thought that he and his chair of governors should consider their future. What does that mean? Exactly that! Not the sack or to resign but to consider their future, if after consideration they thought that the trip was over the top, fine. If they thought no sod it the trip was justified, fine, that's considering their future! I never said they should be sacked or that they should resign! I also said that if this had been the governing body of the school i serve then the trip would not have been sanctioned, i made this comment because i firmly believe that is the case.
I am hurt by the accusation that i have a vendetta because i do not! I am equally upset that as a school governor who donates time and public service and expects nothing back in return, i am expected to forfeit my right to an opinion as a taxpayer of this city.

Alison said...

And I'm sick to death of being attacked by everybody (most of whom had the same opinion as us in the first place - ie, that it was a waste of money), for saying something that most people seemed to agree with anyway (judging by the comments on the Sentinel website).

As Tony rightly states, it seems that, as Governors, everything we say is automatically "because" we are LHS governors and are "jealous" or "have a vendetta" because our school is closing. Do you see us having a vendetta against any other school in the city, some of which are also closing, and many that aren't? NO! Because we don't have a vendetta. We just have an opinion, as TAXPAYERS in the City. Being a governor somehow takes away that right?

We are just a group of governors trying to do our best for a closing school, in very difficult circumstances. My main concern is for the students at LHS, who all these people (including the ex deputy director) seem to have forgotten about in all of this.

I repeat what I said in my article - when I became a school governor, I expected to be involved in looking at curriculum issues, exam results, perhaps a bit of interviewing of staff etc. I never expected to be doing the things I am having to do now, and all voluntarily.

That said, I will continue to support LHS for as long as they want me. Next time, we will be more careful about giving comments to the Sentinel, as they are too easily misquoted and misinterpreted by all. This then gives people the opportunity to attack us, which wasn't why I became a school governor in the first place.

warren said...

Its as simpel as this, whos the best to question the actions of school goveners, other school goveners ofcourse, anyone who cannot see that is not realy on this planet. Tony, Alison, go get them, find out were my and everyones tax moneys gone.

nita said...

Warren, this is what we have been trying to say. Governor's are in the best position, to make comments on decisions, such as spending school budgets. Unfortunately, not the Longton Governor's as it is seen as having a vendetta against another school.

warren said...

Its madness, Tony and Alison have no reason to have any vendata againt any other school or there Governing Body, why the hell sould they. Longton High is under theat from Sonco and the missgiveings of the council, not another school, prof,if anyone needs it is there Surport for Sanden High, as I said, go get them.