Governors at Britain's biggest school hold private talks in a struggle for power. College to go it

PUBLISHED: 14:48 27 November 2009 | UPDATED: 12:23 10 June 2010

FRUSTRATED governors at Exmouth Community College have talked secretly about ways of seeking greater independence to make their own decisions. Angry at the way the Rolle College debate has turned out, governors have admitted holding a private meeting wher

FRUSTRATED governors at Exmouth Community College have talked secretly about ways of seeking greater independence to make their own decisions.

Angry at the way the Rolle College debate has turned out, governors have admitted holding a private meeting where they discussed what would, in affect, be a partial split from Devon County Council.

As the local education authority (LEA), the county council funds and has power over the way what is Britain's biggest school is run. Major developments currently need the county sanction.

However, the college can apply for trust status - which would mean taking, in-house, big decisions such as expansion.

College governors were angered when education chiefs broke a pledge to buy Rolle College to cope with a surge in sixth form numbers by 2013.

They predict an increase from just over 500 to more than 800 and say they need to expand and build, for example, a new technology block. Governors see the purpose-built Rolle facilities as a potential 'third' site.

However, the county council has refused to buy the now-closed Rolle from Plymouth University. County education chiefs dispute the figures and claim numbers will actually fall.

College governor Jill Elson told the Journal: "One of the many things we discussed was our relationship with Devon County Council.

"The LEA still gives an amount of money per student, and the LEA still has to agree capital funding.

"This (option) has been discussed for many years and was just one of many topics we talked about.

"No decision has been made. The most important thing is the future education of students in the Exmouth learning area - and we have to look at any, and all, possible options."

If the college applied for trust status, it would remain under the LEA 'umbrella' and would be funded the same way. However, the governors would be the employers and take on ownership of the school's land and assets.

Mayor Darryl Nicholas said: "Clearly these are matters for the school and its governing body. However, the town council has been, and will remain, supportive of decisions that are made. "

A county spokesman said: "We work with all our schools, no matter what their status, to achieve the best possible result.

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