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Dunottar/ Reigate Grammar - Merger, or what?

(1000 Posts)
quandry Thu 31-Jan-13 20:56:08

Got the letter today, and I have to say I don't really understand what is going on?
Is RGS bailing out Dunottar to save it going under?
I can't see the advantages for RGS at all?

Someone suggested that perhaps they'd make it co-ed, less academic school in the future (like a Box Hill in Reigate?) and share facilities more? (Sports fields closer than Hartswood?)

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 16:41:59

I really don't think we need a new thread. Dunottar is free, secure and proud of what it has achieved. There will be so much written about this story with coverage the media. No more to be said.

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 16:37:53

I agree with most of your reasoning ChocW but surely you must agree with the perverse incentive element. Was it this that prompted Mr Walker to resign? Does anyone know why he resigned or do we have to wait until next week? It was only two days ago that some posters refused to believe that he had gone!

ChocolateWombat Sun 02-Mar-14 16:28:04

Oh and can you believe this thread is labour to get to 999 posts. We need a new title for a new thread, so people will know where it carries on.
The Future of Dunottar sounds good to me. Never been on a thread where this has happened before! How does it all work, so people don't get lost?

ChocolateWombat Sun 02-Mar-14 16:22:07

Petal, all very interesting.
One thing I am interested in here, is the information given to parents at the time of the merger.
Firstly, is it ever obligatory for Governors to give parents this kind of information? (I mean about the limited time frame and limited nature of the support) They are the governors, so they get to make the decisions, not the parents. (Might sound odd me saying that. parents have taken on a big role through DV, but this is actually very unusual. In the normal running of a school, parents do not have much input into school decision making, beyond the fact they usually have 1 governor. Parents are typically told what is happening and are not the deciding group)
I can see that at several points, knowing what to say to parents would have been difficult.
The old governors could have told the parents they were approaching RGS before they did. They were not required to do that, because the Governors were in charges not the parents. Once you go to a big group, all kinds of different views emerge and making progress forward is difficult, especially when time is of the essence.
The old governors went to RGS and asked for help and RGS offered that help and terms. The old Governors accepted it. It was their job, not that of parents to accept or decline. They took responsibility for that, knowing the full terms. They were not coerced. The school then had to live with those decisions.
The old and new governors were not entirely clear with parents about the limited nature of the agreement. Again, on one hand, you could say they did not need to give details, because the parents are not the governors. And knowing the limited help being offered, might have provoked panic leaving of the school. Difficult to see how the Governors could give the full picture, without provoking panic leaving (this was effectively delayed by a year). What do you think would have happened back in 2013 if the full terms had been clear then?

I have said before, that I thought Dunottar Head and the old governors went to RGS to buy time. Rather than close abruptly in 2013, with girls and staff out on their ears, with little time to find an alternative, they felt they were buying them an extra year. However, to avoid panic, it was not possible to say it might only be a reprieve, not a rescue. So actually, I don't think the old Governors or new ones really expected Dunottar to survivein its current form. It was a temporary measure, that those in the know, entered under that kind of understanding. The fact it is surviving in a new form is something that seemed a remote possibility, but wasnt what RGS had committed to help find.

The expectation on here, has been for parents to know what is going on and to play a key role in moving things forward. They have moved things forward. However, this role has been unusual. At the end of the day, the Governors have still been the one with the legal powers. And that is right, because they can take a bigger, broader view of the long term future of the school, in a way which current parents, who naturally are interested most in the here and now for their girls, cannot.
And as the school moves forward, parents will have an input, but the key decision making power will lie with the Governors.

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 16:16:50

Petalpower many many thanks for your accurate account of events. It really was the lack of information given to parents that enraged them so much when the closure consultation was announced. "Perverse incentive" sums it up perfectly.
There are some on this forum that will not accept the truth but they are also busy renewing their subscriptions to the local branch of the Flat Earth Society!

Petalpower1 Sun 02-Mar-14 15:52:57

Soothsayer, I said I would go into the issue of behaviour of governors and whether or not it was inappropriate. You will of course understand that even on a site such as this we have to be careful what we say, so I will have to talk in fairly general terms, and look at the areas where pitfalls lie.

First of all, under the Companies Act, directors of companies (including RGS and Dunottar) have a number of what are called fiduciary duties. One of these is to promote the success of the company. So the governors/directors of RGS have a legal duty to promote the interests of RGS, and the governors of Dunottar have a legal duty to promote the interests of Dunottar, even though it was controlled (but not owned) by RGS. As a director of many years' standing, Mr Walker would presumably be well aware of this duty. However in a letter this February to Dunottar parents, he said that “The Dunottar governors have a legal duty to ensure that the land, building and other assets are used in the best way to fulfil the objects of the Dunottar Trust”, This is strange, as there is no such legal duty. It is also worth pointing out that the objects of the Dunottar Trust are very similar to those of RGS.

Of course the majority of Dunottar directors were also RGS directors, so there are obvious grounds for a conflict of interest here. In the press Mr Walker admitted this conflict, but said that it had been authorised by the Charity Commission. This would allow Dunottar governors who were also RGS governors to vote on issues relating to the future of Dunottar. Mr Walker should hopefully also know that such a conflict authorisation does NOT override the duty to promote the success of the Company, i.e. Dunottar.

The third area of interest is the changing of Dunottar's articles of association, in particular so that, if Dunottar were to close, then its assets would go to RGS. The assets are worth millions, and have no debts against them. Whatever the reason for this change, it is clear that it created a perverse incentive, whereby if RGS allowed Dunottar to close, it would receive millions of pounds.

Fourthly, in the consultation in early 2013 on the takeover of Dunottar by RGS, key details were not given to parents by either the governors of RGS or the old Dunottar governors. For example, parents were not told of the change to the Dunottar articles of association mentioned above, nor were they told the level and duration of financial support promised by RGS (which amounted to a letter of comfort covering possible Dunottar overdrafts for one year). If Dunottar parents had been told of these details, they might possibly have been less inclined to accept the deal.

Finally there is also the question of how much RGS did for Dunottar during the 12 months or so it was in control. We have been told that governors worked tirelessly to save the school, and that all avenues and options were pursued, until the Board came to the reluctant conclusion that closure should be considered. It is therefore strange that (if NikkiSurrey is to be believed) RGS wanted to bid against UL to continue to run the school. This is odd on so many levels - if RGS had explored all the options, then surely they knew that Dunottar was a lost cause, so why bid to carry on running it? And why wait until UL had turned up before considering a bid? Indeed, why did RGS need to bid at all? Going back to the first point, you must remember that, if the UL was a reasonable one, and was the only alternative to closure, the Dunottar Board would have been legally bound to accept it, as it would have promoted the success of Dunottar. But accepting the UL bid would have meant that Dunottar would not close, and RGS would not get its assets, for the time being at least.

Sorry I took so long!

byebye1 Sun 02-Mar-14 13:17:10

Certainly opened my eyes. Agree with batman.

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 12:16:12

No Grudge against RGS at all, why on earth would I have a grudge , I know many fine teachers there, I have spent time in the school, my friends have children there, it is a very good school. I and many others just don't like the way things were handled by the governors of RGS. Some still just do not get it but at least Mr Walker had the good grace to resign.

soothsayer123 Sun 02-Mar-14 11:04:30

Thanks for your take on it Reigateparent, it's nice to read a more honest view of the situation.

Batman I'm afraid that due to your enormous grudge against RGS which has been evident in pretty much every post of yours, it's difficult to take anything you write seriously.

Reigateparent Sun 02-Mar-14 10:54:10

Ah ha. Success! I am on the thread.

I know the anonymous style of this can create a bit of cynicism (as a 24 hour veteran of mums net I can see that clearly) - so a bit of insight to my background might be appreciated by thread followers.

I have a daughter at Dunottar and another child at Caterham. I have nephews and nieces who attended the grammar. I know all these schools quite well.

I have also been closely involved with DV. I think it only fair to be transparent on that.

What matters to me is the education and support my children receive from their schools. I have seen the huge benefit to my daughter that Dunottar has achieved in quite a short period. Having been concerned about it being a fallback option that might just be a bit second rate, to my huge and pleasant surprise I have found it a fantastic school that does its job very well indeed.

I knew little about educational value added until a few weeks ago and am now a bit of a nerd on the subject. This does not measure absolute outcomes, but rather relative outcomes.

So take an 11 year old predicted As and deliver them with As and a decent job is being done. Taking a D student and delivering Cs or an A student and delivering A*s is a rather better performance. And will score more highly for value added.

League tables are blunt tools. If you manage your inputs hard enough, the outputs become very predictable and not all that hard to deliver. Value added tables by contrast for some reason that escapes me are not published or much discussed. But now I 'get it' and for me it is clearly better to have a high value added school than a lower value added school.

Caterham provides a great case study in this, having lifted itself over this last decade from being a clear second best to RGS, to being toe to toe and delivering better outcomes from a less selective intake in the last 3-4 years.

The UL backing for that school has been exemplary and I see no reason to believe the existing strengths at Dunottar will not form a perfect foundation for a co-ed establishment of great quality to emerge.

Numbers in the short term and sports for boys appear to be the big areas of concern for those who fear Dunottar cannot be successful. It is true there will be no first fifteen rugby at Dunottar in the foreseeable future. It is also true that the numbers will be down again next year (inevitable given the recent uncertainty).

However, there are many other sports boys play and enjoy as much (or more) than rugby and having heard ULs initial thoughts on this subject Incan say that as a sport nut (and ex Old Reigation 1st fifteen player) I would have no fears on that count were I to be sending a son to the school.

And as for numbers. Well six of the local feeder schools and a survey of 700 prospective parents suggests the latent demand for the offering that Dunottar will now provide is very strong indeed. We will see.

What I would conclude with on that point is that a self fulfilling prophesy of declining numbers and low confidence will deliver a very different outcome than will a strong plan, from a secure school confident in its proposition and its future. Confidence is contagious and Dunottar now has it.

Prospective parents, please come and have a look next week. You might be very surprised by the sheer quality of what you find.

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 10:16:21

Reigateparent . you have got it absolutely 100% right. What is refreshing is that at last the facts are now understood by the local community despite the wreckers attempt to re-write history. There is an increasing amount of goodwill towards Dunottar and this has promoted the high level of interest from prospective parents.

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 10:06:55

Perfectly put Urmel. Most staff, pupils, parents and governors are lovely people (both schools) just meglamatic behaviour at the top which was stamped out.

Reigateparent Sun 02-Mar-14 09:56:56

I tried to post yesterday (my first ever) but appear not to have understood how this works. I hope this time I have more success.

A couple of things are clear to me. RGS never believed Dunottar could be successful. And as a single sex school that is probably correct.

As a co-ed option this looks very exciting to me for the local area.

Dunottar has excellent value added across the range of academic abilities. It does not chase the league table, rather looking after each child and looking to achieve the best for that child. On average each grade at GCSE is about a whole grade higher than would have been predicted at year 7 when national tests of aptitude are taken. This makes the teaching quality top 10% in the independent sector.

UL has excellent experienced people at the helm, runs great schools (Caterham, Surbiton High, Giildford High being the local ones) and is a church rooted charity headed by a retired Archbishop of Canterbury.

They have clear plans to mange the transition to co-ed, investment plans and the resources and goodwill to make this a success. They run an independent schools division as well as an academy division and this is not going to effect a change in style, ethos or indeed cost of education.

What Reigate will now have is an excellent, secure non-selective option to the very successful but increasingly elitist model of the league table chasing RGS.


Urmel Sun 02-Mar-14 09:27:29

soothsayer, sorry, got that wrong then. Am used to companies where 5/8 board members would be control, especially if you appoint the board yourself. But clearly don't know the details apologise for calling it control. I know both RGS and Dunottar governors have worked very hard for the past year to find solutions and they had to conclude that consultation for closure was needed.
Has there been new thinking now at RGS or was a "bid" needed to push those changes through that couldn't be made over the past year, like change the head if that was necessary as suggested in a post above.
What does the RGS bid propose and is it very different from what is now going ahead? Given the (nasty) noises over the past weeks, it may be best for the whole area to have an outsider come in and stop the fighting between 2 of Reigate's most excellent school.
I just want both RGS and D to continue providing the excellent educational options that make Reigate special. And as a solution has been found that seems to please the D parents and staff that sounds like a result everyone can move on from.

byebye1 Sun 02-Mar-14 09:24:57

I really agree with you TandD. This whole thing regarding three bidders is a bit strange. I can honestly say the only time we heard of the other interested parties was when the dreaded letter arrived on Wednesday causing complete panic again. Not nice. So hearing info up thread is very interesting..what makes me laugh is a few say they are not connected in anyway to either schools yet know a lot of info. Lol

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 09:16:50

Very well put TiredAndDetermind it sums the whole thing up and exposes the underhand behaviour, it really does stink. Very uncomfortable reading in the press next week, for some that is!

Batman111 Sun 02-Mar-14 08:46:45

As I said up- thread I know many of the staff at both schools. I meet some last night and can assure you that they are embarrassed an ashamed as to how RGS have behaved towards Dunottar. They are not willing to defend the indefensible.

TiredAndDetermined Sun 02-Mar-14 08:32:20

Hi Nikki: sorry I recalled you were friends, wasn't 'alleging' anything. This place isn't very conducive to sensible talk, is it?

My point was the RGS 'bid' being something I've heard nowhere else. You hearing it in a couple of contexts is interesting. And made me wonder if you'd heard about the others, is all.

If RGS could pull together a bid - being as D was already in RGS Group, I'm not sure what that means - I wonder why they were doing so so very late in the process. If they had done this seven weeks earlier there would have been no consultation at all.

soothsayer123 Sun 02-Mar-14 07:43:50

That's an interesting interpretation Urmel. I didn't think RGS had control of Dunottar, thought they just got the site in return for underwriting any losses at the bank, and that Dunottar were still in control of their own destiny, albeit with a mixture of RGS and Dunottar govs on the board. So in that sense RGS did have an influence but I've always wondered what the Dunottar head etc has actually done in the last few years to improve the situation. Very little from the sound of it.

Urmel Sun 02-Mar-14 00:18:04

I thought the whole argument on this thread was about RGS getting control of Dunottar and somehow "abusing" that control. Why would RGS need a "bid" if they had control over the past year and could have made all the changes they wanted in that year? Were RGS not actually in control at all, or was Dunottar putting obstacles in the way?

Bo72 Sat 01-Mar-14 20:17:38

Nikki Surrey. Please clarify, who exactly sent mr walkers personal address & to whom? & more importantly please clarify the death threats you allude to and how you possess such information? Both extremely serious comments.

Bearleigh Sat 01-Mar-14 19:51:25

I can't see any bad language. Am I missing something?

Sometimes people resign when others in a team are about to make a decision with which they fundamentally disagree and with which they do not want to be associated.

HippyGall Sat 01-Mar-14 18:50:40

NikkySurrey, I would appreciate it if you wouldn't use bad language on this thread, it is unnecessary.

Thank you

NikkiSurrey Sat 01-Mar-14 18:40:41

Tired - OK, so you didn't get my irony in that sentence... I wasn't being literal!
(However my sister (a Dunottar parent) was emailed details of his personal address "in case she wanted to write to him directly" WTF?)

Just to clarify - I'm not 'good friends' with any of the RGS governors as you allege, but as I said on 17 Jan, I do know some of them - as would many people whose children are in, or have been through the school and been involved in its activities over many years.

And to other posters - no, I'm not a PR or journalist (accountant by training in fact!), and as I said upthread I am an RGS parent, and my niece is at Dunottar, so I have links and contacts with both schools .
So no special insider knowledge, but do know a lot of people who are involved in this one way or another, and it's been very interesting piecing together the information being shared!

The projected losses have already been discussed widely, and are based on calculations of falling numbers, nothing more.

So is the RGS bid new news? I heard it being discussed in at least two different contexts last week. Perhaps it isn't true then? But it would explain why DV were so keen to close the deal prematurely?

Anyway, must go - am going out for a curry with my sister & family tonight wink.

Minibellamama Sat 01-Mar-14 18:24:51

Soothsayer, Sorry sweetie, is that the official statement from NikkiSurrey then, he was fed up with it? I Does that mean he's resigning from the RGS board as well if he's had enough of being a governor?

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