Kings Priory School headteacher steps down after just one term

David Dawes has stepped down as principal at Kings Priory in Tynemouth after just a single term in charge

David Dawes has been appointed head teacher at the new school
David Dawes, who is to step down as head teacher at Kings Priory School

A headteacher of a controversial new academy has resigned just one term into the job.

David Dawes announced he was standing down as leader of Kings Priory School in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, in a letter received on the first day of the new spring term yesterday.

Just weeks ago teachers threatened strike action over their working conditions and there are said to have been frequent clashes with parents over his religious focus and the school’s lack of special needs provision.

Kings Priory School, for four to 18-year-olds, opened in September and is the first ever merger between a fee paying independent school – King’s School at Huntingdon Place – and a state primary, Priory Primary in nearby Percy Park Road.

The father-of-three’s departure was announced by the Woodard Academies Trust, the educational charity which has overseen the merger, and his move was described as “by mutual agreement” and relating to a “difference of personal vision” over the school’s future leadership and direction.

In a statement Mr Dawes said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the pupils, parents, colleagues, academy councillors and other members of the local community and felt privileged to guide Kings Priory School to opening.

“I would like to thank everyone who supported me and I wish the School and Woodard Academies Trust all the very best in the future.”

The Academy will be led by Sue Melbourne, the current Head of Primary and Middle Schools and Gill Hewlett, the current Head of Senior School.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said she would have removed her children from the school if they weren’t in such a vital period of education.

She said: “We’ve had one year and one term of turmoil. As a parent tears have been shed and there’s been such anxiety.

“There’s been no learning support staff for the entire term – that’s 80 children who were previously at King’s getting help with their reading and numeracy.”

She added that the timing of the announcement was bad planning and had a resulted in further disruption to a vital exam period for the school’s Year 11 pupils.

“My daughter’s mock exam results are in ten days’ time,” she said.

David Bilton, chief executive of Woodard Academies Trust, which also runs schools in Stoke-on-Trent and in Sussex and Kent said he understood change may be unsettling but he was confident Sue Melbourne and Gill Hewlett would help build an outstanding school.

Mr Dawes was appointed Principal Designate of the Academy from April 2013 and then Principal from September 1.

Forty teachers planning on a walk out called off their strike over workloads and contractual issues just days before the end of last term.

The independent King’s School was founded in 1860 as a fee paying day school.

Last year members of North Tyneside Council, which opposed the merger due to fears about its impact on the intake of Marden High School and Monkseaton High School, uncovered that King’s was £5m in debt.

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