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Friday, 15 July 2016 22:14

Thinking Schools Academy Trust Chief Executive 'Leaves' the Trust

Written by

Updated 23 July

Following the news last month that Denise Shepherd, The Trust Chief Executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust had been suspended, a letter to parents today (Friday), on what is the last day of the school year for some (why just some?) of the Trust’s schools, announces briefly that she has now ‘decided to leave’ the Trust.


As is normal in such situations, it is likely that a financial deal has been done to avoid an expensive disciplinary action taking place, with a newspaper article in The Times reporting extensive evidence supporting claims of alleged snooping on staff email accounts and doctoring parts of an external inspection report, along with other allegations.

Subsequent to the above, TSAT has published a Press release on its website headed "Thinking Schools Academy Trust Appoints New Chief Executive", with tucked under it further details about Ms Shepherd's departure, as noted below....

Naturally any such financial deal is paid for out of Trust Funds which are supposed to be put towards the education of the children in Trust schools, a recent Kent settlement reported as being considerably greater than a half million pounds, for a headteacher on a far lower salary than Ms Shepherd’s £215,000 p.a.

The Rochester Grammar School website still contains a Principal’s welcome, main signatory the soon to depart Trust Chief Executive, the Principal himself coming after, confirming the main source of power in the school and the Trust, a fact that has contributed to considerable unhappiness amongst many staff, as encapsulated in The Times allegations. The ‘happy, caring’ ethos it describes is self-evidently historical, but may of course now be restored under the sound leadership of the new interim Trust leader.  I have had more enquiries about bullying of girls relating to RGS, than any other school in Kent or Medway.  This certainly appears a problem. 

Stuart Gardiner, the Trust’s current Director of Secondary Education, has been appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer, the two page letter to parents going into considerable detail about the backgrounds of the new Trust leaders, actually of limited interest to most parents who would be more interested in the consequences for individual schools. Naturally, no mention of the troubles that preceded the decision of Ms Shepherd to ‘decide to leave’ which must have had a debilitating effect on staff morale.

However, no doubt with her extensive background in high education politics she will find an important new role, as do so many other displaced senior leaders, hopefully having learned that certain actions are unacceptable. 

Latest News Item
The website news item reports that the Trust has dismissed the allegations about Ms Shepherd and gives her their full endorsement:

"“The Trust undertook a formal investigation, into allegations of misconduct made against Ms Shepherd. This has now concluded, with no further action required to be taken. It is extremely regrettable that these allegations were leaked to the press by an unknown source.Ms Shepherd acted in the best interests of the children within her care at all times, and we would not hesitate to endorse her for a future role within education.”

Of course once Ms Shepherd tendered her resignation, the investigation would automatically be concluded, and no further action could or could be required to be taken! I am sure the Trust regrets that allegations reporting extensive evidence were passed on to the press, but it is certainly not regrettable for everyone. The endorsement by the Chairman of the Trust may be related to the second paragraph in this article, although there is no doubt that whatever her methods, Ms Shepherd leaves behind a powerful and high performing organisation and, if lessons have been learned, under Stuart Gardner's leadership TSAT may prove even more successful and a happier place. 

Last modified on Sunday, 24 July 2016 12:14


  • Comment Link Thursday, 21 September 2017 16:39 posted by Joe

    Denise Shepherd now has a modest website.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 24 July 2016 19:04 posted by Annette

    My daughter has been bullied for two years by girls in her class at RGS. When i have complained I am told it is not bullying, its just girls being girls. She now can't sleep at night for worrying and is fearful and tearful of going to school. What can I do for my daughter's happiness? PETER: All schools have bullying. None of it is acceptable. Schools such as RGS that refuse to acknowledge it is happening are failing their children. Unfortunately complaints at this school appear to be met with denial, and the over-confidence of the Trust Chair in the ethos of the school suggests you are not going to get protection for your daughter that way. You should certainly talk to one of the anti-bullying charities such as Anti-bullying Alliance at or Childline, as you need professional advice. You have the right to make a formal complaint, which can be escalated to the governing body, although this can prove personally difficult and there is no guarantee of success. Academies tend to be self-accountable. Otherwise, I am afraid short of taking her away from the school, which is the solution of others (surely governors have noticed!) or publicising it in this way to encourage others to join you in expressing your concerns jointly. I don't know what to suggest.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 16 July 2016 07:45 posted by Casualty

    It is to be hoped that a bullying culture in parts of the Trust will now be eliminated

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