07 February 2020

Majority of Families Demand Independent Investigation


Richard Dune outside Ashley School

Parents demand Good Shepherd Trust investigation

Majority of families at Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton-on-Thames sign petition calling for independent investigation over resignation of head teacher.

Parents representing two thirds of the 400 families at Ashley Church of England Primary School in Walton on Thames, Surrey, have signed a petition asking the Secretary of State for Education to commission an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Richard Dunne, the widely-respected Headteacher of Ashley School.

The petition was launched on 18 January 2020 by Ashley parents Lou and Tom Bradley. 353 individual parents are known to have signed it so far, representing 271 families - at least two thirds of the families at the school. As of 0900 today, the total number of petition signatures stands at 2147.

Petition organiser Lou Bradley said: “The fact the majority of parents want the Trust independently investigated speaks for itself. Mr Dunne is an outstanding Headteacher and the Trust should be made to answer for their actions. It has left me and so many others in total despair. Mr Dunne should be reinstated as Headteacher of Ashley as soon as possible.”

Last year an investigation into Mr Dunne was launched by the Trust. He was suspended on 10 September 2019 and resigned on 17 November 2019. Mr Dunne told parents, staff and children:

"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.”

Petition organiser Tom Bradley said: “For such an outstanding and inspirational Headteacher to feel that he had no option but to resign from his beloved school due to the fact he felt he wouldn’t get a fair hearing is deeply worrying and the perceived lack of support and empathy he has received from the Good Shepherd Trust is not, in my opinion, aligned to what I believe to be core Christian values.”

The GST held a disciplinary hearing in Richard Dunne’s absence on 18 November 2019 and found him guilty of several counts of misconduct with no right of appeal. An investigation by Ashley parent and journalist Nick Wallis into the action against Richard Dunne and the substance of the allegations themselves revealed serious potential flaws in the Trust’s motivations, methods and evidence.

Tom and Lou Bradley will travel with other Ashley parents to hand in their petition to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education at the Department for Education in London in the coming weeks. Esher and Walton MP Dominic Raab has also written to Mr Williamson stating his serious concerns about the GST.

Ashley parent Nicholas Neveling said: ”The sudden departure of Mr Dunne as Ashley’s Headteacher last year left me and many other parents heartbroken. This sadness has been compounded by the deteriorating relationship between Ashley parents and the Good Shepherd Trust in the aftermath. An independent investigation into the reasons for the GST’s actions leading up to Mr Dunne’s departure is the only way to repair broken bonds, reset and reconcile."

Ashley parent Francesca Rajan said: “I was deeply saddened by the unexpected departure of Mr Dunne. He was an inspiration to pupils, teachers and parents alike, and it is widely agreed that our school has suffered a great loss. We are seeking transparency and accountability, to enable us to feel part of the decision making process that so greatly impacts our children’s futures.”

Ashley parent Peter Shaw said: “If the Good Shepherd Trust are not willing to submit to an independent inquiry, you have to wonder what they have got to hide. What I want my children to learn at school is that honesty and openness are values that we should live by. What harm can be done by having all the facts scrutinised by an independent investigation?”

Ashley parent, Nick Wallis said: “The Good Shepherd Trust and the Chair of the School’s board of governors tried to claim we were a minority of troublemakers. Now it’s clear the majority of Ashley families are demanding a proper investigation. The Trust needs to do something. There is evidence of a very un-Christian stitch-up. The Trust and its employees need to be held to account.”

Ashley parent Emily Thomas said: “This is about upholding the fundamental values of integrity, respect and distinguishing right from wrong. Sadly, the actions of the GST contradict everyone one of these. We have lost an incredible Headteacher and Ashley School is the pawn in this power play. We are seeking an independent enquiry to find the truth and hold those responsible to account.”

Various Ashley parents are available for interview. High res photos of Mr Dunne outside Ashley School and external photographs of the Ashley School buildings are available.

For more information please contact:

Kaija Larke: 07841166232 / kaija@larkemedia.com 
Nick Wallis: 07976 432174 / nick@nickwallis.com 

Notes for editors:

Ashley Church of England Primary School is a three form entry school with 541 pupils. It joined the Good Shepherd Multi-Academy Trust in 2014.

Richard Dunne is nationally recognised as a pioneering and brilliant Headteacher, under whose leadership Ashley School was rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

Ashley School is part of the Good Shepherd Multi-Academy Trust, run by the Diocese of Guildford. Ashley is its only Outstanding school.

Last year concerned parents launched the Ashley 4 Transparency group and set up a crowdfunding campaign which raised more than £22,500 to help Mr Dunne take legal action against the Good Shepherd Trust. Further fundraising events are planned.

Nick Wallis has published the results of his investigation into the Trust on the blog www.educationaccountability.org - where you can also read the letters Dominic Raab MP has sent to the Secretary of State for Education and the Good Shepherd Trust.