Letter Sent To Kevicc Governors


This letter was sent to the Chair to pass on to the rest of the Governors – it’s a precis of a more dense, detailed document. We hoped to be allowed to address the governors with a presentation, which we were under the impression Headmaster Alan Salt promised to allow at the Public meeting. Even though we gave advance notice of this but we were not permitted to do so. We are finding the continuous difficulties in obtaining responses, lack of openess and communication with Kevicc deeply frustrating.

KEVICC is a foundation school, and a member of the Dart Valley Learning Trust (DVLT), which was established in 2011 after a period of consultation. The freehold of the whole KEVICC site was transferred into the DVLT from Devon County Council in 2012. This Trust currently has 6 Trustee/Directors. The school has a Governing Body which currently has 8 governors.

Concerns about the Governing Body

  • The Board of Governors does not have the appropriate representation to make the decision to sell the land. The Board has gone from having a nearly full complement of 14 governors in the July 2021 Babcock external review (with one vacancy for a foundation governor) they now have 8 governors and none of these are parent governors.
  • In this same external review document the Advisor ‘noted a high number and frequency of part 2 (confidential) minutes. The Advisor understands that this has been largely due to time-limited sensitive information that has been discussed at meetings and this will now largely move to the public domain. As the College is a public body, spending public money it is important that part 1/open minutes become the standard as soon as possible.
  • The Board of Governors does not have the full information it needs to make an informed decision on what the ‘best’ bid would be for the students of the school. This is because a sub committee has made most of the decisions and presented them as a ‘done deal’ to the full governing body.
  • There is a question about the conflict of interest Wendy Ormsby has as a co-opted governor. Wendy is the Development Management Service Manager at Torbay Council leading the DM Team and TDA Group profits flow directly back into Torbay Council. 
  • Most of the detailed work on the sale has been done by the Site Development sub committee, who have advised the main board of governors on how to vote and keeps them updated. This sub committee (SDG) consists of the same four governors who are also on the Board of the DVLT – Jim Lodge (also Chair of the Board of Governors), Alan Salt, Julian Carnell and Anthony Power with advice from Stephen Corline, the KEVICC Business and Finance Director.
  • It is this sub committee who have undertaken all of the liaisons with the town council and the TDA Group. The fact that the same four people are involved at every level of the sale and the only Governors who have detailed information on the process, means that the group co-ordinating the sale is very small and unrepresentative
  • Concerns have been raised about the lack of information shared with governors outside this small group. Examples of this are:  
  • governors were not told in detail that there were alternatives to the definition of Best Value currently being used.
  • Governors were not told that a listing of an Asset of Community Value  (ACV) is proof of community value.  Governors were not told that it is the DVLT’s responsibility to sell the land, not theirs.  Governors were not told that during the ACV process, Torbay Development Agency (the agents commissioned to organise the sale – TDA) should have withdrawn from proceedings entirely.  The ACV process regulations clearly show that any and all conversation or advice from any developer, council or land agent should cease immediately once the process had started and it should not have started before the school had permission from the Sec. of State for Education to sell.  The last two issues on their own are challengeable.
  • Concerns have been raised by members of the community, town councillors, district councillors and county councillors that their letters to the governors are unacknowledged, remain unanswered or are not passed on.

Concerns about the Dart Valley Learning Trust

  • The company rules require the DVLT to have trustees from Transition Town Totnes, Falmouth University & the Co-op Society.  There has been no representation from these organisations since 2015 and neither Falmouth University, nor Transition Town Totnes have received formal invitations to take their places on the Board.
  • Trustees are supposed to have the oversight of a stakeholder forum according to its rules however no company forum is functioning. This has led to Tony Whitty being the sole representative of that stakeholder forum for 8 years. The forum is supposed to meet 3 times a year, which does not happen, and put forward and elect a Trustee to represent them which also hasn’t happened.
  • DVLT filed accounts of £10,194 assets in 2021 (and for many previous years) despite land registry accounts stating that value of property held is over £1 million. How is this accounted for?
  • Company rules provide for the company to have a cross section of the community as members – pupils, parents, staff, community members & orgs etc.  However, members have not been consulted on the sale of the land & the register of members has not been provided, despite several requests, including from District Cllr John Birch.
  • Because the Directors of the DVLT are all governors or employees (barring Tony Whitty) rather than representatives of the community as they are supposed to be, there is an absence of impartial oversight & scrutiny, which is a main function of the Board of Governors.
  • The DVLT was established in 2011 and yet only 2 sets of minutes are published on KEVICC website. At a recent Full Governing Body meeting on the 5th April 2022 it stated that ‘The DVLT is holding its AGM soon to discuss academisation and lad disposal’ No notice was made of this meeting to members, and no record of the minutes are public.
  • The DVLT is not responding to requests from the district or county councils, the press or the town council to clarify its position.  They will not respond to requests for a meeting
  • DVLT members have written to the trustees via Cllr Birch, requesting an AGM but no response has yet been made
  • The role of the DVLT is to ensure that the community has involvement in holding the school assets in trust and that the governors have a linked scrutiny role  The fact that the directors are all drawn from a small group, and that there is a lack of parent governors or community governors to oversee the Trust is significantly weakening that role.

Concerns about TDA Group

  • TDA Group exist to generate profit to contribute to Torbay Council’s budgets, and as such have the interests of this neighbouring authority at heart, not Totnes’
  • TDA Group work on a commission basis and so are driven to maximise the profit from the KEVICC land sale to ensure they have a higher return into Torbay Council
  • TDA Group use a very narrow definition of best value that defines it as the highest possible financial return, when there is a growing body of work that defines best value as something far broader and also includes social and environmental value
  • TDA Group have been allowed by KEVICC to put out sales particulars that directly contravene the JLP entry for the site. The JLP was widely consulted on and the 130 homes allocated for that site were the conclusion reached by the planning authority as being the appropriate solution for the town.

As a campaign of people from across the community of Totnes, with a range of skills we feel confident that by working in collaboration with you as a governing body we can find a solution that works for everyone – delivering much improved school buildings, but also development of the surplus KEVICC land which meets the needs of existing and future KEVICC students, and the wider community.

We are very concerned that making such a controversial and important decision when neither the Dart Valley Learning Trust nor the board of governors are functioning appropriately will lead to a rushed and uninformed decision that will cause irreparable damage to the fabric of Totnes.

Do you as Governors feel confident that you are making the right choice by continuing to market the land and committing to making a decision on the buyer in September 2022?

Would you be willing to call a pause on the current process of sale and engagement of the TDA Group to work with us to define an alternative process that includes the sale of the Lower Field to the Town?

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