18 November 2019

Richard Dunne's resignation letter

Emailed at 5.05pm on 18 November 2019:

"Dear Staff, Parents and Children of Ashley School,

It is with a very heavy heart that I write to inform you that I have resigned from my position at the school with immediate effect.  The Good Shepherd Trust has made a number of allegations about my performance regarding procedures and practices.  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 in relation to the concerns they have raised and so I have resigned.

I am also resigning due to the total lack of care my family and I have received from the Trust during this time.  It has made the past few months intolerable and it is not fair on my family for this suffering to continue.

It has been the greatest honour of my life to have led Ashley School for so many years, to have seen the school grow from one-form of entry to close to full three-forms of entry, to have worked with so many wonderful people, both staff and parents, and, most importantly, to have seen so many children flourish during their time at the school.

I am deeply saddened that after 18 years of devoted service to the school, I should be leaving in this way.  I wish you all every success in the future and thank you for so many happy years working together to make Ashley School the special school it is, and I hope will continue to be.

Very best wishes to you all,

Richard Dunne"

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The Regional Schools Commissioner states on what grounds she will get involved

Received 18 November 2019:

"Dear Mr Wallis

Thank you for your email about Ashley Primary School. I have fed the issues you have raised back to the Good Shepherd Trust and they have assured me they are taking your concerns seriously.

I thought it would be helpful to explain the role of the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) and the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in relation to formally intervening in the running of an academy trust. Academy Trusts are independent, self governing, organisations funded directly by the government. The RSC and the ESFA will only take formal action against an academy trust when a school within the trust has been judged inadequate by Ofsted or if a trust fails to comply with the academies financial and governance handbooks.

For the above reasons, I hope you will understand why I cannot intervene further on the issues you and other parents have raised about Ashley school. 

The trust will provide a further update before the end of term.
Kind Regards

Claire Burton
Regional Schools Commissioner
South East and South London"

This email was sent in response to a note sent by NW to Ms Burton on 6 November. This is NW's email:

"Dear Ms Burton

I am the parent of a child at Ashley school in Walton. 

As you know, many of the parents here have written to you with concerns about the governance and direction of Ashley School, particularly, but not exclusively with regard to the absence of its inspirational head teacher, Richard Dunne.

I saw the generic, dismissive and inaccurate two line response you sent to many parents on 29 October by way of reply. You stated that the trust “has issued a statement to parents explaining Mr Dunne’s absence.”

Did you read it? The Trust didn’t explain anything.

I attach a letter from Dominic Raab, the erstwhile and likely next MP for Esher and Walton. You will note he has read the statement the Good Shepherd Trust issued, and reflected on it thus: “I think it is unreasonable for the Trust not to set out any substantive explanation at all for Mr Dunne’s absence after such a long period.” [my emphasis]

He goes on to say it is “incumbent” on the Trust and the school to show more “transparency" with regards to the "leadership and governance" of the school.

He concludes by saying that “given the seriousness of the situation” he is copying the Secretary of State for Education and the HM Chief Inspector of Education, Schools and Skills at Ofsted into his request for more information from the Trust.

I would politely and respectfully suggest that you take on board the contents of that letter and the many emails you will have received from concerned parents. Please, either do something about it or at the very least tell us why you can’t/won’t and/or what threshold would have to be reached before you might be minded to. 

Sending us a miserable two line generic fob-off directing us towards a statement you evidently hadn’t read is disrespectful at best. If your intention was to anger people, you succeeded.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly. And given the seriousness of the situation, I will, of course, be copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Education, the Chief Inspector of Schools at Ofsted, and Dominic Raab.



NW responded to the 18 Nov email from the regional schools commissioner the day it was received with a note of thanks:

"Dear Ms Burton

Thank you very much for that helpful information and thank you very much for contacting the trust.

I will circulate your note to the group of concerned parents I’m dealing with and we’ll work out what to do from there.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to reply and explain how your role works.