05:40PM, Monday 11 October 2021
The trust in charge of Khalsa Secondary Academy has lost a legal battle to keep control – following evidence of a ‘serious breakdown’ in governance and safeguarding.
The Government announced its intention to terminate the Stoke Poges school’s funding agreement in June last year and a new trust has been vying to take control of the school ever since.
Some parents spoke out against the re-brokerage, worrying that the change would disrupt students' education or potentially compromise the school's Sikh values.
The existing body in charge, Khalsa Secondary Trust, fought against the decision by the Department for Education (DfE), seeking a judicial review.
The High Court has now published its findings – and has decided that the re-brokerage should go ahead.
Deputy judge of the High Court, Gavin Mansfield QC, heard that the that a regional schools commissioner from the DfE felt there had been ‘a serious breakdown’ in the way the Academy was managed and governed.
In 2019, Buckinghamshire Council upheld six safeguarding allegations. The Academy was also rated 'inadequate' at an Ofsted inspection in 2020.
The court heard that CEO Nick Kandola ‘made flippant remarks’ about some of the incidents – including an alleged rape, use of pornography by a staff member on-site, and ‘inappropriate’ comments made by a teacher to a Year 8 class.
Evidence showed that pornographic material had been accessed from a staff member's computer on several occasions.
Though the Trust said the staff members was dismissed, he was actually simply allowed to resign.
The staff member was then taken on a golf trip to Kenya by Mr Kandola, alongside other staff – leaving the academy short-staffed and short of medical cover.
The High Court did not accept claims by Khalsa Secondary Trust that it was discriminated against by the DfE, or that there was a ‘conspiracy’ against it because of its Sikh identity, from secular parties and Sikh religious fundamentalists.
Mr Kandola also said that complaints were being made by ‘disgruntled ex-employees’ and were ‘unfounded’.
Mr Mansfield described the evidence for this as ‘very thin’ and not persuasive.
He added that both the findings from the Buckinghamshire and Ofsted reports were ‘damning’.
The school is now set to be re-brokered to the Sikh Academies Trust (SAT), formed by governors and trustees at Slough’s Khalsa Primary School.
Mr Kandola has left as CEO and resigned as trustee from Khalsa Secondary Trust.
Shaminder Ryatt, chair of the board for Khalsa Academies Trust, said:
“We are disappointed with the decision made by the High Court and over the coming months will be considering our options, including making an appeal.
“In the meantime, our students are our priority and we will continue to improve the safe running of the school and focus on our academic and pastoral provision, that we, as a Trust are known for.”
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