The curious case of the governor of Brighton College

4 Sep

Brighton College

Even by the standards of Sir Robin Wales, this is distinctly odd.

At the Mayoral Proceedings of 29 March 2012 the mayor declared a personal interest in item 6 on the agenda. This concerned the proposed letting to the London Academy of Excellence of Broadway House in Stratford.

LAE is a sixth form “free school academy” aimed at the “academically ambitious” who aspire to get into a Russell Group university. It is a partnership between seven leading independent schools, including the likes of Eton and Roedean.

One of those partners is Brighton College, which the Sunday Times named as England’s Independent School of the Year 2011-12. Sir Robin’s personal interest was, as the minutes of the meeting put it, “by virtue of being a Governor of Brighton College.”

Notwithstanding his declared interest, Sir Robin approved the deal to rent Broadway House to the London Academy of Excellence on terms that included an initial 12 months rent free.

According to the the register of interests on the council’s website, the mayor had declared his connection to Brighton College in November 2011.

To the casual observer, this might look a bit peculiar. Fees at Brighton College are £27,000 a year, which is much the same as the average household income in Newham. What would the Labour mayor of one of London’s poorest areas be doing on the governing body of such a school? How could it possibly benefit the people who elected him and who pay his generous salary? And given that this was in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics Sir Robin was already pretty busy, what with being executive mayor of the main host borough and a board member of LOCOG. How would he fit it in?

Sadly the Brighton College website provided no enlightenment as to the extent of his new duties. It made no reference whatsoever to Sir Robin’s appointment and his name appeared in none their publications. Again, rather strange. Having the mayor of the Olympic borough and the host for their new 6th form venture join the governing body would surely be something they would mention?

The Charity Commission website was no more helpful. Charities are required to publish an annual report, including a list of their trustees. Like most independent schools, Brighton College is a charity and their governors are the trustees. Again, Sir Robin’s name was not mentioned.

Perhaps they just hadn’t got round to it. The last annual report was for the year ending 31 July 2011, so Sir Robin had not yet been appointed when it was written. I put it to the back of my mind.

Then a couple of weeks ago something – I’m not sure what – prompted me to check back. There was still no mention anywhere on the Brighton College website and a Google search for “Sir Robin Wales + Brighton College” yielded only two useful results – the Newham council register of interests and the minutes of the Mayoral Proceedings.

The register of interests had been updated and the list of changes showed that at the end of May 2012 the entry for Brighton College had been removed. That was just six months after it had been added and a bare two months after Sir Robin had declared his personal interest at Mayoral Proceedings. It appeared that his term as governor had been a very short one.

The Charity Commission website had a new annual report for Brighton College covering the year ending 31 July 2012, the period in which Sir Robin had declared his interest as a governor. The report listed all those who had served as trustees during the year, but his name did not appear.

Had the school made a mistake and submitted an inaccurate report? That would be an embarrassment and quite possibly a breach of their legal obligations. I contacted them to confirm that Sir Robin had indeed been a governor and point out that his name had been omitted from their annual report.

On Monday I received a reply from the clerk to the Governing Body:

I can confirm that Sir Robin Wales has never been a governor of Brighton College.

So why on Earth had he ever said he was? Why had Sir Robin registered an interest he did not actually have and why had he declared it publicly at Mayoral Proceedings?

There may be a sensible or rational explanation, but I am at a loss as to what it might be.

It is a very curious business indeed.

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One Response to “The curious case of the governor of Brighton College”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Brighton College Mystery – part 2 | forestgatedotnet - October 10, 2013

    […] up my post last month about the curious business of Sir Robin wrongly declaring himself to be a governor of one of […]

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