“Underprepared and no real answers” – parents say Heart Academies Trust meeting was a waste of time

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A public meeting held by Heart Multi Academies Trust descended into chaos last night, as parents quizzed CEO Claire Smith over the decision to restructure staff at Shortstown, Shackleton and Cauldwell schools, and failed to get the answers they wanted.

One parent told the Bedford Independent “I have more questions now than I did before coming here.”

Two meetings at Bedford Academy have been announced by Heart Academies Trust, the other will be held tonight, in an attempt to rectify what they have admitted was a “leak of information” leading to “distress and anxiety”.

The Trust has also agreed to mediation that will be hosted by the Department for Education in a bid to rebuild the trust and confidence they acknowledge has been lost.

The restructre would see an Executive Head oversee all three schools, with current heads either taking on the lesser role of Head of School or accepting voluntary redundancy. Governing bodies for the schools would also be removed.

CEO Claire Smith delivered a presentation on the proposals but many parents were fixated on what would happen to the teachers that their children know and trust. While there were some considered and structured questions from the floor, the event soon descended into chaos with some parents hijacking the presentation itself and the post-presenation Q&A by shouting down answers making it difficult for others to hear.

Depsite all this, CEO Claire Smith was underprepared for the meeting. There was no real evidence in her presenation that the restrucutre is the answer to the three schools’ problems and when asked where it had worked elsewhere, she was unable to answer. Parents say they have lost their faith in her and the Trust.

Shouts from the floor clearly demonstrated how parents believe the restructure is simply a cost cutting excercise, that teachers are being forced to accept the restructure or leave positions they love, and that Heart Acadamies Trust were running the schools as a business.

Speaking after the meeting, parents representing the SSC Action Group spoke about their frustration that the meeting told them nothing more than what they already know. One parent added “We don’t really want to be here fighting with the trust, we’d actually like to support them in something that we would agree with.”

CEO Claire Smith refused to give interviews to any media after the meeting, instead asking Heart MAT Trustee Sue Clark to field questions. Sue apologised again about the distress the proposed restructures have caused the parents and staff, and that they will be considering what was said and will reflect upon it. Sue also confirmed that when looking at where the proposed Executive Head restructure has worked, they have taken evidence from Oasis Community Learning and Harris Federation.

You can hear her responses to further questions, and comments from parents in full in the video below.