Those unaware of the recent history may be surprised to hear that they dropped the last failed plans just 3 months ago following protests from parents pupils and staff as to a lack of meaningful consultation and also a plea from all for some stability at the school and a hope for a period of relative calm in which the school can improve its performance and the pupils can prosper.
A new executive board had been agreed for the school and yet before it has even had time to meet, the County Council are once more throwing the school into a period of further uncertainty, and a consultation period that once again coincides with the School Summer Holidays (really helpful)
So here we go again......................................
This time step forward their new preferred partner the David Ross Foundation, and let us give praise for this mans entrepreneurial spirit. This afternoon at County Hall Cllr Michael Clarke (Hackleton) reminded us that this was the man who was responsible for the mobile phone! (Hardly he simply was a co founder of Carphone Warehouse) and that he was someone that would inspire pupils and someone they could look up to.
Unfortunately for Michael I had to inform the chamber that David Ross has another less palatable and less celebrated side to his character.
Mr Ross is a close friend of David Cameron and a big donor to the Tory party he hit the headlines recently for rather different reasons to those trumpeted by local Tory Cllrs. For instance the Guardian of 11th June 2009 tells us that
"Ross was forced to resign as a director of a number of companies, including Carphone, Big Yellow and National Express, after breaching stock exchange rules. He had admitted using his personal shareholdings in the businesses as security for millions of pounds worth of personal loans, but failed to notify his fellow board members. Under the rules governing directors' disclosure, any director must notify the company's chairman of any share dealings, including the use of shares as security for loans. Ross also quit his prestigious role advising the London mayor, Boris Johnson, on the 2012 Olympics"
The American Hedge Fund Millionaire was a key member of Boris Johnsons Olympics team where he oversaw the Olympic budget and advised on legacy issues for the Mayor, but he quit his position following his shares difficulties in December 2008.
The Financial Times indicates possible trouble ahead for Mr Ross when it reported on the 12th June that:
"Mr Ross had a Gilbraltar-based commercial property joint venture with Morgan Stanley called Kandahar Real Estate, but he has bought the investment bank out for a nominal sum. Accounts filed this month for Kandahar Group Limited, a British subsidiary of Kandahar Real Estate that funds several UK property interests, show that auditors have highlighted uncertainty about the company's ability to continue as a going concern. Directors of Kandahar Group expect it to be in breach of covenants on its £247m loan facility with HBOS if the company's property portfolio is valued next month."
So, all in all he sounds like a great role model for our secondary schools kids, I hear you all cry!
The other school the David Ross Foundation manages is the Havelock Academy in Grimbsy where Mr Ross's father built his frozen food empire. It has recently published GCSE results 3% below the national average. Life at Havelock however sounds spiffing with the school broken up "Public School" style into various houses, Tiger, Eagle, Archer, Vanguard, Ramalies, Illustrious, Jaguar and Fortune. The Academy takes its name from the folk-heroic legendary figure called Havelock who was saved by Grim, a Danish fisherman.But whether or not Unity can be saved once again from whats seems like endless upheaval and continual imposed and flawed County Council consultations or whether its future like Havelock's saviour is grim will now be decided in the coming months.
My own view for what it is worth is that Mr Ross's well established links to the Tory Party and his own well documented problems make him less than an ideal candidate to convince an already hesitant parent and staff group that the future of the school is secured. In fact some might wonder whether the Tory Councillors themselves as members of a Party who may have benefited from Mr Ross's political largess should themselves declare an interest?
I would guess that a number of those opposed to the original Academy bid may well also share my view, and once more the focus will be on not what is best for the kids at the school (stability and a chance for the new executive board to raise standards) but instead on the County Councils gift for getting it so badly wrong in again choosing unsuitable partners for Northampton's most challenged Secondary School.