|Richard Dunne (l) and Alex Clark (r)
The current (interim) head teacher of Ashley School, Alex Clark, had a meeting yesterday with his predecessor. For those who thought putting Mr Dunne and Mr Clark in the same room might cause an irreversible rupture in the space-time continuum, rest easy. It seemed to go okay.
The meeting came at Mr Clark's suggestion. Mr Dunne remains parent of a child at Ashley School so it has been quite simple for them to bump into each other at the school gate and discuss having a proper chat.
Mr Clark emailed to tell me the two men:
"had a very productive meeting about the way forward and it is likely that the next few months will see a good relationship building with Richard contributing towards supporting our development around aspects of Harmony. Early days, but very positive."
I asked Mr Clark if he was okay if I shared this message, and he agreed, providing I checked with Mr Dunne first, which I did.
Before Mr Dunne became aware Mr Clark had contacted me he sent an email, not to me, but to a supportive parent, who shared it with permission. It said:
"My meeting with Alex Clark was a productive one. We talked about the commitment from the Trust to keep the Harmony curriculum going and the importance of training up staff to really understand what this means...
... Mr Clark said he could only imagine, as a fellow Head, how difficult last year must have been. He said the process now needs to be one of healing and he has suggested as a next step that I meet with the new CEO, Paul Kennedy, so hopefully that can happen in the next few weeks.
I still think certain people need to be held to account and to date they haven't been, but that is a matter for the GST, rather than Mr Clark.
So overall, it was a good meeting. There was clear recognition that the unique features of the school around Harmony and sustainability mustn't be lost".
Mr Dunne kindly agreed to let me publish the contents of the above email.
I cannot begin to overstate how important the meeting between Mr Dunne and Mr Clark was. It shows Mr Clark is willing to engage with someone he might feel slightly awkward chatting to whilst sitting in the Ashley head teacher's chair.
It also shows that Mr Dunne is being very gracious, given what he was put through.
I hope this meeting causes an outbreak of peace, love and understanding, the same three things I was hoping to channel when I wrote my first piece about the weird disappearance of Mr Dunne almost exactly a year ago.
But... organisations only act in their own interests. I suspect neither the Good Shepherd Trust or Alex Clark care much for Richard Dunne beyond the fallout from the Trust's decision to remove him.
In a 2018 - 2022 strategic document, now mysteriously missing from their website, the Good Shepherd Trust says:
"the Trust has agreed a growth plan which envisages 30 schools within the Trust within four years."
ie by the end of 2022. Since suspending Richard Dunne, the Good Shepherd Trust has not added a single school to its portfolio of 16.
This figures. Who would want to join a Trust which dismisses credible allegations of bullying against one of its directors without investigation, or suspends a well-regarded head teacher on cobbled-together evidence?
If the Trust wants to start growing its income it's going to have to fix some of the problems its ineptitude has caused. Given the extra staff it's taken on, it's going to need to do so quite quickly.
The Ashley Parent Partnership met the new chief executive of the Good Shepherd Trust last week. I hope his conciliatory noises will translate into action, and by the way, I sincerely hope Alex Clark's status as a National Leader in Education is justified, given his record at, and sudden resignation from his last job at the Cirrus Academy Trust. More on that soon.