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Thursday, 05 March 2020 16:14

Another Secondary Headteacher Bites the Dust

Written by

Considerably Updated 6th March

There has been a spate of headteachers in recent years losing their jobs at short notice, often 'to pursue other interests', including last year when the head of The Archbishop's School in Canterbury departed after overseeing the decline of this once popular and successful school.  An Ofsted Report published recently sets out the historic problems at Archbishop's. Passing rapidly over Holcombe Academy in Chatham, that gets through at least one head a year most recently in January, amongst its many managerial changes, and High Weald Academy and Folkestone Academy that change with equal rapidity we come to: 

Kim Gunn, Principal of the 1,350 pupil Strood Academy for six years, who has also left suddenly 'to pursue new career opportunities;’ according to a brief four line paragraph  in a letter to parents yesterday. The two page letter is mainly devoted to describing a review of the school carried out by external consultants, one sentence of which records that ‘The principal and senior leaders have established a school ethos in which everyone is valued’.  Not necessarily! Otherwise, we are just treated to a few positive excerpts.  A day after the letter announcing her departure, she had been airbrushed out of the school website

Strood Academy

This sudden departure followed a short absence since half term. I suppose it could be connected with the disappointing GCSE results last summer, with Strood Academy eighth of the eleven Medway secondary schools in both Progress and Attainment, but doubt this. Strood Academy is now the Medway Hub school for the robust and acquisitive Leigh Academy Trust which  took over Medway's struggling Williamson Trust in 2018, so logically the Principal has oversight of all six local Leigh academies, including the historic Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School. It will also incorporate the new Leigh Academy Rainham planned to open in 2021, so the role is becoming increasingly challenging. When Ms Gunn became Principal, after five years as Head of School, it was as head of a single Academy in a different Trust, with Leigh Academies only taking it over in 2017.  Just 15 months after the Trust took on the Williamson Trust schools she has gone.  Does the Trust want a larger figure for the new role?  

One can speculate about the reasons for Ms Gunn leaving her post so suddenly, but Academy Trusts tend to be a law unto themselves with no requirement to follow normal employment rules for the teaching profession. I suspect we shall never know. Struggling schools such as Folkestone Academy, High Weald in Cranbrook and Copperfield Academy in Gravesham, all featured in these pages, have a rapid turnover of school leaders, frequently at short notice, and almost always without comment, a scenario often played out elsewhere. All that is clear is that this departure was unplanned and at short notice, with Ms Gunn expressing her sincere gratitude for the support and friendship she has received in that short paragraph, but not presumably from the Trust leadership. 

Strood Academy is now being run by Dijana Piralic, described as Principal on the school website, but previously Associate Principal and First Deputy. Apparently, she will occupy this post, the description of which sounds very permanent, for at least the rest of this academic year until a substantive appointment process has been completed. She was previously Vice Principal at Leigh UTC in Dartford. 

The letter to parents positively gushes at the compliments from the Consultants' Report, but somehow omits any mention of performance. It also highlights the school’s oversubscription of first choices, omitting reference to the reason for this being a delay in opening the new Maritime Academy also in Strood, until 2021, which will offer it strong competition.  The letter concludes ‘Strood Academy will continue to thrive as it embarks upon its next decade. We are grateful for the considerable support we regularly receive from parents and the local community to ensure the best possible start in life for our pupils’.  

Last modified on Friday, 08 January 2021 07:25

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