FIVE governors at a junior school have resigned as they were left feeling “impotent” in their roles after several decades.

The governors of Bournes Green Junior School in Thorpe Bay, run by the Southend East Community Academy Trust (SECAT), sent an open letter to chairman Karen Dovaston on Sunday.

The governors, whose experience at the school between them is between 50 and 60 years, said they had been left with “no option” and that there was a “total breakdown in trust” between them and the trust.

In a defiant response, the trust said it was “disappointed” for the governors to resign and said it had come following the trust’s decision to remove delegated powers from them last week in response to them wanting to appoint a new governor without notifying the trust, or there being a vacancy.

But the governors have said that the decision to resign was not a “knee-jerk reaction” and that they had already decided to resign before the power was removed.

In the letter, the governors claimed that the trust was attempting to run its six schools from a larger central administration and “cloning” schools to a specific way of working.

They said: “In all SECAT has not remained the organisation we signed up to, and to our dismay has ‘diminished’ the role of those committed and active governors to a minor monitoring role, with little or no ability to ‘steer’ the school in the direction it has always gone, through unswerving support of its headteacher and staff.”

The governors said there had been “needless upset” and “misguided restrictions” since the school joined the trust in September 2017.

They said: “You will have gathered from this letter that we, as ‘Governors’, are totally dismayed at the way in which SECAT is treating us, and diminishing our role in safeguarding the standards in the school and supporting its progress and activities.

“We have become ‘impotent’ in the role.

“We believe that the way the trust has been governed and has treated its staff has brought it into disrepute and at the same time and by association has tarnished the outstanding reputation of Bournes Green Junior School.”

The East of England Local Government Association published a report last year which said on the balance of probabilities there was a “culture of fear” in the trust, leaving people fearful for their roles.

The report also investigated allegations of bullying by trust CEO Ruth Brock. The investigator could not find evidence of intentional bullying, but Ms Brock’s “forcefulness” and “relatively blunt” communications was interpreted as bullying by some.

Following the resignation of former chairman Maurice Sweeting in May, Karen Dovaston was appointed in June, stating she wanted to improve communications in the trust, and “positive meetings” had been held with the Regional Schools Commissioner for the East of England.

In response to the governors’ resignations, the trust said the governors' delegated powers were "extensive" and after a period of support, they would have been returned, and that there were “unpleasant and untrue” allegations in the letter.

A spokesman said: “All appointed members of the board are volunteers from the local and wider community and serve with a mandate to put the needs of the trust, its schools, pupils, and staff first.

"This sometimes requires some difficult and hard decisions, but we are always driven by these principles and must hold others to them also.”

They added: “We are very disappointed both that the Governors have resigned and also felt the need to take their personal political grievances into a public forum and attempt to tarnish the tireless work that our schools are doing to support pupils, staff and the community during these extremely difficult times simply because they haven't got their own way.”