Independent investigation of The Good Shepherd Trust

Independent investigation of The Good Shepherd Trust

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Michaela Hope
Michaela Hope signed this petition

Louise and Tom Bradley started this petition to The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP (Secretary of State for Education) with responsibility for the Department for Education

We are Lou and Tom Bradley and we are parents of a child that attends Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton on Thames, Surrey.

Following the unpopular and unnecessary loss of the school’s former Headteacher - Mr Richard Dunne - we have been following a series of events unfolding at Ashley School. This culminated in a revealing article published by a parent and journalist at Ashley School which drew attention to some serious allegations concerning the GST’s role in the matter and its broader governance regarding Ashley School. We have thought long and hard and believe an independent investigation is the only way to get to the truth.

We have therefore decided to petition the Right Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP (Secretary of State of Education) with responsibility for the Department for Education to commission an independent investigation of The Good Shepherd Trust with regard to the GST’s role and behaviour in bringing about the loss of a much-loved and inspirational Headteacher from one of its member academies – Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton on Thames, Surrey.

With your support, hopefully we can find out what has really happened at our much-loved school. For those new to the story, full details can be read below.

Richard Dunne was the Headteacher at Ashley School for 18 years. He loved his job, the school and its children, and they loved him. He was a brilliant Headteacher. Staff loved working with him. He used to amaze parents* by knowing all the names of all the children at the school, even a week into a new school year, greeting them at the school gate in the morning with a lovely personal greeting and a warm welcoming smile. He inspired everyone including children, staff and parents alike. He had an amazing knack of tailoring his assemblies to 4 year olds, 11 year olds and, when parents and grandparents attended, 44 and 74 year olds!

Richard transformed Ashley School from a ‘Good’ school to an ‘Outstanding’ school in 2007, after only six years as its Head. As well as delivering excellent academic results and learning for children, he introduced a new ‘Harmony’ based curriculum and promoted eco issues throughout the school, which positively set Ashley School apart from other schools in the local area and really enriched the education of children. Richard even arranged for Prince Charles to visit the school in 2016. Richard was totally devoted to the school, often spending his evenings, weekends and holidays on school matters.

Richard disappeared from Ashley School at the start of the Autumn term in 2019. It later emerged that the GST had made "a number of allegations" about his "performance". In mid-November 2019, Richard felt forced to resign explaining that "I strongly reject the allegations levied by the Trust, but, given the way the Trust has conducted itself so far, I do not believe that I will receive a fair hearing."

Richard is devastated that he is no longer the Headteacher; he desperately misses leading the school and educating its children. The GST’s lack of communication and accountability to parents regarding the situation even led to The Rt Hon Dominic Raab (Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State) intervening late last year!

Lack of accountability is an area of focus for Ofsted. Unfortunately, Ofsted cannot inspect Multi-Academy Trusts like The Good Shepherd Trust or make graded judgments about their performance. This general theme was raised by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, and reported by the Guardian on 15 July 2019: see https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jul/15/head-of-ofsted-calls-for-greater-scrutiny-of-multi-academy-trusts She said:

“Given the power and influence of MATs, it’s important that they are properly accountable to parents. The fact that Ofsted is unable to inspect trusts directly means parents and policy makers are only given a partial view of what is happening in our schools. This presents some very real risks, which we have seen highlighted by the recent failures of some academy trusts.”

For the reasons explained above, we are calling for an independent investigation into The Good Shepherd Trust with regard to its role and behaviour in bringing about the loss of a much-loved and inspirational Headteacher from Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton on Thames, Surrey. It is time the GST was required to account for its actions, and it is high-time parents were given a clear account of what happened here.

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*Parents refers to parents and carers.