Head quits special measures academy

Richard Smyth

Richard Smyth

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The headteacher of Preston’s flagship academy is to step down, less than three months after the school was slammed by government inspectors.

Fulwood Academy was put into special measures by Ofsted in November. Principal Richard Smyth has now said he will retire at the end of the current term.

But the 62-year-old insisted his decision had “nothing to do” with the inspection, which criticised almost every aspect of teaching, learning and management. He said: “Although we have had an Ofsted which wasn’t particularly good, this was in motion well before that.”

The announcement of Mr Smyth’s retirement came as a monitoring inspection letter from Ofsted was published.It said the school was making good progress in the first visit by an inspector since it was deemed inadequate.

The letter from inspector Shirley Gornall said: “Swift and well-directed action is being taken to overcome weaknesses and raise standards.”

The academy’s governors have already appointed a successor.

Stephen Henry, who has taught and been a senior leader in schools in Lancashire, Manchester and Childwall in Liverpool, is expected to take up the reins after Easter.

The Ofsted bombshell said students didn’t make enough progress, with most groups underachieving in the classroom.

Teachers did not expect enough of students and lessons were boring.

It said students lacked confidence but felt safe in school.

Senior leaders were criticised for not taking enough notice of the poor progress made by students, while the inspectors claimed that governors were being given inaccurate information about standards in the classroom.

The school was, however, praised for making pupils feel safe and an improvement in discipline and attendance were acknowledged by Ofsted.

Parents and carers this week received a letter from chairman of governors David Goldie explaining the move.

It said: “Eight months ago Mr Smyth advised the trustees of his intention to retire this year.

“He has been our principal since the start of 2010 and has led the school through a period of immense change.

“Over this period we have constructed and moved into our wonderful new building, our examination results have markedly improved, and the atmosphere in school and attitude to learning of our students has been transformed.

“We are very grateful to Mr Smyth for everything he has done for the academy and we wish him a very happy well-deserved retirement.”

Talking about the new principal, the letter described him as “exceptionally well qualified”, and an “excellent leader”.

Explaining his decision to retire, Mr Smyth said it had always been his intention to stay only four or five years at the academy, and said he was now in his fifth year.

He said: “Last spring I had been trying to recover from an accident which meant an hour and a half’s operation in Preston Hospital.

“It was a bicycle accident and I had been knocked out and it required an operation.

“By the spring I said to the chairman I need to go, I need to retire, so they have had lots of warning.”

He added: “We know we’ve got to improve, we knew that before Ofsted arrived and we know there is work to be done.

“And I think parents should be assured that we are on our way, as proved by the monitoring report.”

He said: “At 62 it’s time for somebody younger to take over” and added: “It is nothing at all to do with the Ofsted. Not at all.

“It has been a privilege to work with outstanding staff to create exciting learning opportunities which our parents and students greatly appreciate.”

MP Mark Hendrick said he was unsurprised by the retirement, and added: “I will look forward to working with the new principal in what I’m sure will be a more constructive manner than I found with the current one.”

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