GOVERNORS at Colchester Royal Grammar School were afraid to drive change by asking challenging questions following a damning Ofsted inspection, a report has revealed.

The report states tensions were high among the Lexden Road school’s board of governors almost a year on from the explosive Ofsted verdict.

Bosses at the prestigious school were told some areas of its operation had become a “hostile environment” for pupils in July 2021.

The National Governance Association looked at the trustees helping to run the school in April 2022.

Gazette: Review - the main hall at Colchester Royal Grammar SchoolReview - the main hall at Colchester Royal Grammar School (Image: Newsquest)

This report has never been made available by the school, but can now be exclusively revealed after a Freedom of Information request was put to the new academy which runs it - Thinking Schools Multi Academy Trust.

It said: “The current School Improvement Plan model is not fit for purpose and does not support trustee tracking and monitoring of progress.

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“Currently there are some tensions within the board about asking challenging questions. Some trustees are reluctant to ask challenging questions for fear of being viewed as difficult.”

The report revealed the board’s clerk was also head teacher John Russell’s PA, with concerns raised about conflicts of interest.

Gazette: Head teacher - John RussellHead teacher - John Russell (Image: Newsquest)

On another occasion, the headteacher was drawn in to comment on an ongoing disciplinary matter which “compromised the entire board”, meaning the meeting had to be abandoned and adjourned.

The board was also branded “too big” and “over complex”, with papers often submitted late and confusing, lengthy agendas.

“There was no regular 360 degree review of the chairwoman’s performance,” added the report, with the last review being pre-pandemic.

However, it did state: “Most of those with governance responsibility recognise changes are needed and governance structures and practice are at a point of significant transition.”

Gazette: Under fire - Colchester Royal Grammar SchoolUnder fire - Colchester Royal Grammar School (Image: Newsquest)

A school spokesman said “every aspect” of the school was “reviewed and scrutinised” following the Ofsted inspection.

He added: “We were pleased that Ofsted found in February 2022, prior to the completion of the External Review of Governance, that ‘leaders and governors are demonstrating the capacity to make rapid improvements’.”

The spokesman said the school’s governing body sought the NGA review itself and over the past 18 months has implemented a number of developments.

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