Second teacher steps down from trust which runs Kings Priory School

Troubled educational trust The Woodard Academies Trust has seen a second headteacher resign from his post

David Dawes, who resigned as headteacher of Kings Priory School after just one term
David Dawes, who resigned as headteacher of Kings Priory School after just one term

The departure of a second head teacher in 24 hours at a troubled educational trust calls into question the ability to recruit appropriate staff, a parent claims.

The Woodard Academies Trust which runs Kings Priory School in Tynemouth saw its headteacher David Dawes stand down after just one term in the post, on Monday.

On the same day a headteacher at one of the trust’s schools in the south of England also announced his departure leaving parents in the North East worried about the organisation’s approach to hiring staff.

A parent who wished not to be named so as to protect the identity of her child who is a pupil at the school, said: “To have two headteachers go in one day makes me slightly worried as to whether Woodard has a handle on the sort of people who should be running their schools.

“Are they actually bringing in the right people and are they capable of choosing the right people?

“I hope in the future they are more circumspect with whoever they chose to replace him.”

Mr Dawes’ departure came on the same day as headteacher Steve Jewell of the Littlehampton Academy in West Sussex announced his resignation ahead of the school’s Ofsted report which is due to be released today.

Both men officially stood down on December 31. However, Woodard left it until the first day of term to tell parents and pupils in an official letter.

Their departure in such quick succession has called into question the management of the trust, which is a Christian charity that runs 23 schools across the country and took over the running of the newly formed Kings Priory School last April.

Like the organisation’s Tynemouth staff, teachers in Sussex also threatened strike action last year.

Their concerns were over excess monitoring and workload for staff, while at Kings Priory teachers planned to walk out over working conditions.

The Woodard Academies Trust has not revealed the reasons for Mr Jewell leaving during the middle of the academic year, but said he had made the decision after “much consideration’”

Mr Dawes is said to have stepped down due to conflicting visions with trust staff over how the Tynemouth school should be run.

Parents have previously spoken of their discomfort at his strong religious views and also difficulties in communication between himself and parents.

“Whoever they appoint next needs to be someone who I think can liaise with the parents and someone who you can have a rapport with. The trust between parents and the school was just breaking down,” said the mum, whose young child currently attends the school.

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 academy will be led by Sue Melbourne, the current Head of Primary and Middle Schools and Gill Hewlett, the current Head of Senior School until a new leader is chosen.

David Bilton, CEO of Woodard Academies Trust said: “The departure of the two principals, David Dawes at Kings Priory School and Steve Jewell at The Littlehampton Academy are not linked and were for very different reasons.

“Teaching staff are governed by staffing resignation dates, hence the reason why these two dates are the same in this instance.

“Steve Jewell was in his fifth year as principal of The Littlehampton Academy and he left his post after careful consideration.

“David Dawes, as has been reported, left due to a difference of personal vision. He was at the end of his first term as principal.

“As an Academy Trust we have robust and audited recruitment procedures which involve both HR and education experts at each stage from the written entry, interview stages, aptitude tests and references.

“It would be wrong of anyone to jump to any assumption or conclusion regarding these departures and as expected, reasons for leaving are often personal and therefore should rightly remain confidential.”

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