Watchdog denies exclusive school’s claim of ‘case closed’
QUEENSLAND'S private schools watchdog has contradicted claims by a troubled Gold Coast college that it has been cleared in a probe into its governance and administration.
The Non-State Schools Accreditation Board, which governs whether private schools are fit to operate, launched the investigation into Hillcrest Christian College late last year following a raft of complaints from staff, parents and school community members.
The Baptist Church-run Reedy Creek college was last year rocked by turmoil including unproven bullying allegations against principal Jeff Davis, the suspension and departure of senior staff and concerns over hundreds of thousands of dollars in school loans to a private company set up to commercialise a reading program.
It has also come under fire after laying off dozens of staff amid the coronavirus crisis.
In a media release last month, the college said the investigation had been completed and Hillcrest was in the clear.
"The assessment found no significant issues with the administration led by Jeff Davis and the Board's governance of Hillcrest," college board chair Jame Lewis said.
"It confirms what we have said all along, that Hillcrest is well-run and complies with its legal and professional obligations.
"We are glad to be able to put the allegations behind us and focus 100 per cent of our efforts on the education of Hillcrest students once again.
"We welcome the findings of the NSSAB review which shows that Hillcrest is built on solid foundations and the College is set up to continue its success into the future."
But in a letter to complainants on Friday, NSSAB chair Lynne Foley said that 'despite comments made in the media, its investigation into all concerns raised which are within the Board's statutory jurisdiction remains ongoing'.
"Members of the Board have stringent confidentiality provisions under the Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Act 2017 and are not at liberty to disclose details of its investigations," she said.
"Under the Act, the Board's statutory responsibilities in relation to an accredited school are confined to specific matters, including whether the governing body of a school is suitable to continue to be the school's governing body and whether a school is complying with accreditation criteria prescribed under the Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Regulation 2017.
"The Board will write to you after it has concluded the investigation."
A Hillcrest spokesman said there were 'minor matters for the school to act on' but the college believed it had been cleared in relation to its governance and administration.
Meanwhile, some Hillcrest staff stood down by the college have been reinstated after the Independent Education Union launched action in the Fair Work Commission.
Mr Davis announced the staff lay-offs last month, saying the college's $30 million annual budget was under pressure.
The union said its Fair Work Commission 'intervention' had led to some Hillcrest staff, including non-union members, being reinstated.
"The union remains concerned that the employer acted so expeditiously on the stand-downs and did not examine more fully their capacity to maintain employment," IEU secretary Terry Burke said.
Originally published as Watchdog denies exclusive school's claim of 'case closed'