15 July 2020

Exonerated. Vindicated.

Two weeks ago Richard Dunne, former head teacher at Ashley CofE primary school, received a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The letter said that having reviewed the evidence it had been sent by the Good Shepherd Trust (GST) on 10 Dec last year, it saw no need to take any further action.

Mr Dunne is not and will not be barred or limited in any way from working with children in future. Good news.

However the DBS reserved the right to review the decision based on any findings by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).

The TRA investigation was a bigger deal than the DBS review as both the GST and Mr Dunne had the opportunity to submit additional evidence beyond whatever the GST had sent to trigger the TRA investigation.
Charlotte and Richard Dunne

Mr Dunne spent many hours putting his case together, and sent it off several weeks ago, along with the 380 letters of support he received from parents, ex-parents, staff, ex-colleagues and former pupils.

Yesterday Mr Dunne received the result of the TRA investigation.

All allegations against him have been thrown out. 

The letter says:

"The Teaching Regulation Authority has completed its investigation. The determination meeting has concluded that your case should be closed with no further action."

The TRA says someone called a Decision Maker looked at everything, and had to ponder whether any of them "even at their highest... amount to potentially serious misconduct" [my italics]

After listing every allegation (including the Chamonix trip safeguarding nonsense, the alleged catering racket and Mr Dunne's alleged failing to book on a safeguarding course) and noting the further representations made by both the GST and Mr Dunne, the TRA says:

"Having considered all the information, the Decision Maker does not consider that this case should proceed to a Professional Conduct Panel. [The] TRA now considers this matter closed."

So the Decision Maker's conclusion was that the GST allegations were so weak, they should be slung out at the first instance.

This is a huge victory for Mr Dunne and indeed all the parents who have been campaigning on his behalf. Let's not forget he was suddenly removed from his job in the first week of this school year and was left completely (and deliberately*) isolated. He and his family have been put through hell with no apology or support from his employer.

Now - ten months on - two independent investigations have found the GST's allegations to be baseless.

I have spoken to Mr Dunne. He told me his over-riding emotion is one of relief. He wrote to me to say:
"We are so pleased that the nightmare of the past year is now over. It has been the most difficult time of our lives and I cannot put into words the pain and the suffering we have gone through after 18 years at the school. We have grieved so much. What the Trust did and the way it went about it was wrong and I hope now that they will be held to account for their actions. I have said all along that if there were any concerns last year, they should have been discussed through a fair and dignified process. That did not happen. Instead, I was put under unreasonable pressure to manage the largest primary school in the Trust with a reduced leadership team and I was told to oversee another Trust school. In addition, because I challenged the way the Trust was working, I was targeted behind my back over several months. The lengths to which the Trust went to find any fault in anything I did was extraordinary. At last, justice has been done. The sadness is, that this should never have happened. It has caused so many people so much upset. I want to thank the amazing Ashley School community for all their incredible support during such a challenging time."
Mr Dunne says he is going to sit down and have a good think with his family about what to do next. He still has a claim in for constructive dismissal, and I suspect the two letters he has recently received don't do his case any harm at all.

* See timeline, 3 October 2019.

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13 May 2020

The Good Shepherd Trust, bullying and Nigel Stapleton

Nigel Stapleton (centre) at the 2019 Ashley Xmas Bazaar with fellow governor Melvyn Mills (l) and Mr Dunne's successor (before he was announced), Alex Clark.
So, farewell then, Nige - outgoing Chair of Ashley School's local governing committee (LGC) and local Walton Big Dog.

Before the coronavirus hit, Nigel Stapleton was due to chair one last LGC meeting before his departure. I have had it confirmed that will no longer happen, and the next LGC meeting will be chaired by the new man, Chris Howard.

Nonetheless, Mr Stapleton remains a Good Shepherd Trust (GST) director, partly responsible for the strategic direction of Ashley School and the future education of our children.

His behaviour whilst Chair of the LGC, the way the GST has dealt with the multiple bullying allegations against him, and the level of control and involvement the GST allowed him in the running of Ashley School needs proper scrutiny.

Simon Walker, Chair of the GST, has stated on the record: “I take allegations of bullying of any kind very seriously.”

On the evidence below, only when it suits him.

What are the allegations, then?

You may be one of the three hundred parents and staff who attended the meeting at Esher Rubgy Club in support of former Ashley School head teacher Richard Dunne in November last year. At that meeting, the former assistant head of Ashley School, Dan Cadman, paid tribute to Mr Dunne, calling him a "visionary" who has "inspired many teachers". He also referenced the LGC's dysfunction, noting that whilst he was at the school he:
"unfortunately witnessed at least one occasion where I felt that the governing body treated Richard with a complete lack of respect. And also - probably for the last two years when I was there - I could see from my conversations with Richard the emotional challenge and turmoil he was going through from the constant barrage that the governing body were giving him."
Those present at that meeting got a taste of that lack of respect when a parent, representing the view of the 300 people in the room that night, wrote to Nigel Stapleton to discuss the possibility of setting up a parent council, in the light of Mr Dunne's treatment at the hands of the Good Shepherd Trust.

Mr Stapleton's reply could not be more dismissive:
"We started work" he wrote "on the Parent partnership well before the parent meeting to which you refer in your email. Ours is an initiative being led by the senior leadership - as should be the case - with strong encouragement from the LGC. So it does, therefore, supersede what was discussed at the Esher Rugby Club meeting.”
But what of this "constant barrage" mentioned by Dan Cadman in his short speech at Esher Rugby Club? In writing my piece earlier this year on the allegations against Mr Dunne I was given sight of some documentation which sheds a bit more light on the situation.

In a formal complaint to the Good Shepherd Trust, former parent governor Laurence Koe describes Nigel Stapleton and the vice-chair of the LGC (the reverend Cathy Blair) speaking to Mr Dunne at LGC meetings in "a very confrontational and aggressive way, which was tantamount to bullying."

The complaint was not investigated. Mr Koe says: "I received a formulaic reply which addressed none of my concerns in a meaningful way. The concerns and points I raised were ignored and brushed to one side."

Complaint 2

Sienna Alcock, a former clerk to the LGC, stated that the way Mr Dunne was treated, specifically by Nigel Stapleton, was "aggressive and demeaning" and that over the academic year 2016/7 this got "progressively worse".

Ms Alcock says it was apparent Mr Stapleton was "micro managing the school" and this was "having a destructive effect on the functioning of the senior management team and Mr Dunne's emotional wellbeing."

I am told the GST was informed of this at the time, but it appears nothing was said or done.

As the end of the 2016/7 school year approached, the situation had got so pressing it prompted three LGC members - Mr Koe, Ms Alcock and Martyn McCarthy - to meet and discuss it.

Ms Alcock's term as clerk to the LGC had come to an end, but her work was so valued by the LGC, she had been asked to become a foundation governor, a position she would take up at the September 2017 LGC meeting.

During their discussion, Mr Koe, Mr McCarthy and Ms Alcock concluded Mr Stapleton should be formally approached to step down. Ms Alcock would assume the position of temporary chair whilst a full time replacement was found.

After word of this discussion filtered through, something very odd happened. In the run up to the September 2017 LGC meeting, Ms Alcock found she had been removed from the governors' correspondence list and could not access the LGC's document portal.

"I tried to contact the Trust," she says "and was unable to get any further information." She eventually found her membership of the LGC no longer existed. She had simply been ghosted out.

Now who would want to do that?

Ms Alcock says of it now: "it was clear my attempts to speak up about the situation were met with an attempt to silence me."

In the light of what happened to Mr Dunne, in December last year, Ms Alcock put in a complaint to the Good Shepherd Trust both about Nigel Stapleton's behaviour towards Mr Dunne and her own removal from the governing board without any explanation.

In her letter to the chair of the GST, Simon Walker, Ms Alcock said she understood the Trust had been aware of concerns about Mr Stapleton's behaviour, yet nothing was done about it. "Why was it allowed to continue?" she asked.

Addressing Mr Walker, Ms Alcock concluded:
"I would be very grateful if you would look into this matter in more detail and let me know why the concerns regarding Mr Stapleton were not addressed at this time and why I was silenced in this way? This is particularly worrying given the context of Mr Dunne's resignation."
Mr Walker didn't even bother to reply, leaving it to the current clerk of Ashley's LGC to respond, dismissing her complaint in one line.

Complaint 3

It seems like allegations about Nigel Stapleton's behaviour aren't just limited to LGC meetings. A former member of staff at Ashley School, Laura Barden, had run-ins with Mr Stapleton in her capacity as lettings manager for the Harmony Centre on the Ashley School playing field. She took on the responsibility alongside her other duties, and she made a success of it. In her formal complaint to the GST she states:
"With the increase in [the Harmony Centre's] popularity came an increase in noise complaints from a small number of residents in Ashley Park. All complaints were taken seriously and restrictions were put in place regarding amplified music, alcohol and finishing times. Bookings were carefully vetted by myself and any arrangement agreed in writing with Richard [Dunne].  
Any complaints from the APRA [Ashley Park Residents Association] were made to Nigel [a member of APRA], who would then phone or email Richard (day, night and during the weekend). Richard told me that the tone of the emails and calls were often aggressive and the timings intrusive. I know that Richard found it difficult as it was infringing on his family life. On more than one occasion Nigel turned up at a private party in the Harmony Centre and tried to shut it down. Hirers would then call my personal mobile number (which was given out in case of emergencies) in distress. This was extremely embarrassing for me and upsetting for the hirers. 
After one complaint regarding noise from a children's party where a small amount of alcohol had been served to guests (agreed by Richard), I was cc'd into an email from Nigel to Richard. In the email Nigel told Richard to 'curb' my behavior with regard to lettings. I put in an official complaint... as I felt the tone of Nigel's email was inappropriate and offensive."
Ms Barden says the substance of her complaint was ignored. Ms Barden's complaint to the GST continues with another, slightly alarming example:
"I was also witness to Nigel's questionable behavior when he invited one of the Ashley Park complainants to school for a meeting. Richard was unavailable so I stood in for him. Nigel spoke over the gentleman, cut him off and interrupted him on a number of occasions. His manner was rude and aggressive. The gentleman asked me if there was an 'out of hours number' he could call if he needed to complain about noise from the Harmony Centre. Nigel said "I'm sure you would like the phone number of Laura's bedroom" and started laughing. Not only did it not make any sense, it was an outrageous thing to say during a meeting.  
During a period of 6 months I was having to speak to Richard most weeks regarding complaints from Nigel. I didn't want to come into work on a Monday as I was so worried about what had happened over the weekend! It was extremely difficult for both Richard and I to work under those circumstances... It was a toxic environment to work in... a really scary and stressful time as I felt i was being bullied out of my job. 
I became ill in May 2017 and was eventually diagnosed with a chronic neurological condition. The chronic pain was increased during periods of stress so i took the decision to step back from lettings and any additional work at weekends. This limited the interaction with Nigel and i was thankfully able to move to a new job at the beginning of this year. After I'd handed in my notice he came on a visit to the school. Once in the office he made a point of going around the room and talking to everyone. He ignored me, then left."
The Trust refused to investigate Ms Barden's complaint, saying she made it too late. Ms Barden says:
"The response I received from the GST with regards to my complaint was woefully inadequate. It's completely unacceptable for them to refuse to deal with very serious allegations due to the passage of time. The timing of a complaint does not make it any less valid or true. Late complaints CAN be investigated by the GST "if it appears reasonable and fair to do so, having regard to the circumstances surrounding the complaint". They have simply chosen not to. An interesting choice for a Trust whose duty of care supposedly extends to former staff."
There's more

I was intrigued to see a message from an unfamiliar name pop up in the comments to Richard Dunne's crowdfunding webpage when it was active at the turn of the year. A Mr Ken Giannini stated:
"Richard I only just saw today the horrific story of your clash with Nigel and it seems other nasty people undermining you. You have my 100% support. You personally and Charlotte have transformed Ashley and every student and parent sings your praises. My children have excelled in life due to the amazing start in life at Ashley. As we know I have experienced the bullying of Nigel and the sooner someone calls him out the better."
I tracked Mr Giannini down on Facebook. He is a former Ashley parent and architect. He also used to live on the same road as Richard Dunne. Mr Giannini's experience of dealing with Mr Stapleton went back to some work Mr Giannini did for Ashley school in 2008 around possible designs to cope with the school's expansion.

After the project had been completed, there was a meeting on 2 April 2009 to discuss payment of a final outstanding bill. The meeting would be chaired by Nigel Stapleton, who Mr Giannini had never met before. At the beginning of the meeting, Mr Stapleton started a recording device and then, rather preposterously, launched into an extensive run-down of his boardroom credentials and business experience.

Having listed his brilliant achievements, Mr Stapleton then suggested Mr Giannini might want to think about his claim for outstanding payment.

Mr Giannini described Mr Stapleton's tone throughout as "super-bullying and aggressive" and felt the whole meeting was an attempt to intimidate him out of trying to settle his invoice.

Mr Giannini took his case to the small claims court. His fee was settled before it came to a hearing.

I asked Mr Giannini what he thought of Mr Stapleton. He replied: "A bully. And I could tell this bloke was bad news for the school, and bad news for Richard, too."

It seems Nigel has a long history of acting in an intimidating manner.

An article on the Post and Parcel website from 2004 notes his behaviour whilst boss of a company called Uniq was "controversial" and that "some people who worked there at the time found him bullying." Not fellow C-suite high flyer, Bill Ronald:
"He's challenging and a tough taskmaster. [But] I've never seen him have a temper tantrum or throw his weight around. He is very considered, non-emotional. Some people find him intimidating.”
In his grievance letter to the Good Shepherd Trust, written on 13 Dec last year, Richard Dunne stated for the record:
"many people within the Trust and at the School have expressed to me and to others that they consider Nigel Stapleton to be a bully, and I certainly believe that he has bullied me during the course of my employment as Headteacher of the School."
I asked the Good Shepherd Trust if it had made any further enquiries about this serious allegation by Mr Dunne. I received the following response:
"The Good Shepherd Trust strives to ensure that all its staff, both present and past, are able to carry out their duties in a professional and supportive workplace culture. Any formal complaints are thoroughly investigated in line with the trust’s published policy."
I asked the GST to tell me the number of formal complaints they have received about Nigel Stapleton's behaviour. They tell me that information cannot be shared under GDPR rules.

I asked them if they would care to comment on the multiple allegations in this article, and their behaviour in removing Sienna Alcock from the LGC when she raised concerns about Nigel Stapleton's behaviour. I also asked them why, if they took allegations of bullying very seriously, they dismissed at least three formal, evidenced complaints about Mr Stapleton's behaviour without any investigation. I received nothing more than the above statement.

I told Mr Stapleton I was writing a piece about the allegations against him and asked him to address them. He responded with the following:
"I have told you twice before that I am unwilling to enter into dialogue with you, whatever the topic that you would like to discuss. 
I find your approach to "investigative  journalism" to be totally different to any that I have encountered before.  
There are many current and ex-governors with whom I have worked during my 10 years as a member of the Ashley LGC. You are basing your allegations about my behaviour as a Governor on feedback you have gained from two ex-governors.  
It is my belief that you are making no serious attempt to validate their allegations and consequently I am unwilling to cooperate with such an unprofessional approach.
I ask you to publish this reply either in its entirety or not at all."
Happy to. Mr Stapleton has stepped down from chairing the Ashley LGC with the GST's "deep" gratitude ringing in his ears.

Parents representing the majority of families at Ashley school have already demanded an independent investigation into the Good Shepherd Trust's treatment of Richard Dunne. The multiple, serious and credible bullying allegations against Nigel Stapleton and the removal of Sienna Alcock from Ashley's LGC also needs an independent investigation, not dismissal.


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07 May 2020

Mr Dunne has received your help!

Richard Dunne
Last week, former Ashley School head teacher Richard Dunne published an appeal for help. "The Good Shepherd Trust has sent a number of allegations about me to the Teacher Regulation Agency" he said,  "I believe this is an attempt to get me struck off the teacher register."

These allegations relate to those the Good Shepherd Trust (GST) raised against Mr Dunne whilst he was head teacher last year. The TRA has informed Mr Dunne it is conducting an investigation, which is where Mr Dunne's appeal for personal references came in. Last week, he wrote:
"My legal advisors (who you so kindly crowdfunded), tell me that character references in these investigations matter a great deal, as the Trust is questioning my professional and personal integrity. In this instance, the more I can get and send on to the TRA, the better."
I am delighted to report that in the space of one week Mr Dunne has received more than 220 references from parents, past and present, staff and former pupils of Ashley school. This is a phenomenal number, and I think everyone connected to Ashley school can feel rightly proud. As you might expect, Mr Dunne is thrilled. He asked me to pass on the following message:
"I have been overwhelmed by the number of character references since my request went out last Wednesday. I want to thank you all for your extremely kind messages of support.  I have been really humbled by your very kind words."  
I asked on an open forum if anyone would mind forwarding me their references for publication. There follows is a small selection of what came through. I have anonymised them, but all are from current Ashley parents. See if you can spot mine. See if you can spot yours!

The one-in-a-million character:
"I have known Richard Dunne for under two years but over this time I have only ever seen great things from him. He was an inspirational head teacher at Ashley and his leadership is sorely missed at the school... The Ashley community is one of a kind and Richard has been the one behind building and growing this community.  He was (and still is) 100% dedicated to the children – not just their education and safety but also pushing boundaries in terms of teaching them about Harmony and how to make the world a better place. He is a one in a million character and his mistreatment at the hands of the GST is deplorable."
Inspirational, moral, honest: 
"I have therefore known Richard Dunne for 12 years. As a family we have been incredibly fortunate to have had Mr Dunne's inspirational leadership for both our children in their formative primary years. His dedication, kindness and integrity is unquestionable. 
He lead the school from the front and knew every child's name within a week of them joining which made them all feel secure and safe... Having volunteered with the FOA (the parent association) for many years, I worked with Mr Dunne closely and found him to be incredibly fair, open and honest in all his dealings and meetings... I would not hesitate to vouch for Mr Dunne as an inspirational, honest and moral character."
I've just realised he's going to get quite a big head reading all these: 
"I am a parent of a set of twins in Y3. We were privileged to be accepted at Ashley; having the children educated under the leadership of such an inspirational head teacher made a dream come true. Our children received the best education in a safe, happy and sustainable environment where they have grown learning more than just what the National Curriculum expects.  
Mr Dunne’s ethos is close to our hearts; he is a world-class visionary who continues to inspire us and our community, regardless of the utterly unjust upheaval he and his family have to endure because of the Good Shepherd Trust's unfounded accusations. We would do anything to have him back at Ashley, we trust him with our children’s lives." 
Ah, well, he deserves it: 
"I am a parent at Ashley School; my children (age 11 and 10) have been at the school under the leadership of Richard Dunne since reception. I have been a teacher for 20 years, and Richard is one of the most inspirational, caring and genuine educators I have come across during that time. 
During his time at Ashley he cared about each and every child at the school, knew them all by name and was liked and respected by teachers, children and parents. He also showed compassion and empathy for parents, like us, who have found themselves in difficult situations. He was available when he needed to be, and was always smiling in the playground at the end of the day. My children have had an amazing start in life thanks to Ashley school under Richard’s leadership. 
I am shocked and appalled at the allegations against Richard, and welcome an independent investigation so that the actions of the GST can be questioned and Richards good name can be cleared."
This one is genuinely moving: 
"I am a Paediatric Nurse with 30 years experience and I am a Designated Children’s Safeguarding Officer.  In my previous role I worked for 10 years in the School environment in this capacity and I have a good awareness of safeguarding issues within schools. 
Richard is a person of impeccable character and with the greatest integrity.  I, like many parents, had absolutely no concerns of any type of safeguarding issues. From a professional point of view Mr Dunne has only ever wanted the very best for the children and he really cares. Despite a three form entry he made it his business to learn all of the children’s names. His love of the job and compassion for what he did was so obvious to all who knew him, parents, children and staff alike. During his management of the school, I never encountered a safeguarding issue or concern. The school community was always regarded as a safe and secure place for our children. On a personal level I can assure you Richard Dunne’s integrity is not a trait exclusive to his professional life. Out of work Mr Dunne is a generous, kind, honest and caring man.  He is truly one of the most honourable people I have ever met. 
The allegations against Mr Dunne have been made public for some time and they are quite simply absurd... why the GST were not able to address these minor concerns in a rational, responsible and efficient way is completely baffling to me.  The GST’s shambolic mismanagement has led to an innocent man being professionally persecuted in order for the GST to attain their own agenda.  The fact the TRA have even been involved is ludicrous.

It is impossible to explain how much our school has changed since the loss of our hugely respected, valued and incredible Headmaster.  Richard Dunne is irreplaceable.  He was once aptly described by a parent as ‘the beating heart of Ashely School’ and since his departure the school is less vibrant, less cheerful, less passionate, less spirited as a result, a loss acutely felt by parents, staff and children. 
I am aware your organisation plays no part in investigating any suggested misconduct of Academy Trusts but I implore you to play no part in removing Mr Dunne’s teaching registration. For Richard Dunne to be lost from education forever would be a catastrophic error of judgement and a travesty. "
And this one's mine:
"Mr Dunne’s passion for making the world a better place inspired the children around him. My two girls left the school incredibly well-educated and ready to take whatever came next. They are thriving at secondary school, largely thanks to him. My third child is still at Ashley school and it is a matter of profound regret that this year Mr Dunne has not been there with him. 
To give you some more testimony of how highly he is valued, on 25 November 2019, more than 300 parents and teachers packed themselves into a room at Esher Rugby Club to support Mr Dunne. At that stage no one knew the flimsy allegations which had been cynically cobbled together as part of the Good Shepherd Trust’s desperation to try to pin the slightest infraction on him. 
Mr Dunne’s former assistant head, the much-loved Dan Cadman, who is now a deputy head at another school, said a few words at the front of the room. Mr Cadman worked with Mr Dunne for 7 years, and as a fellow professional, his words will carry more weight than mine. Speaking off the cuff, he said: 
"I would just to affirm to everyone here, as I think you know, your children were or are always safe at Ashley School. Safe, happy and having the time of their lives. And I have been with Richard scaling mountains - literally, not figuratively - and on field trips, sports day preparations and a whole host of things, and safety and the happiness of the children has always been at the forefront, so please don't think for any moment that your children were not safe.” 
He went on to say: 
Richard is a visionary. And it’s quite special to have a visionary as a head teacher. He could and will go on to do incredible things and to have someone like that as a head teacher of a local primary school is something quite special and very sad for you all to be losing. He inspired me to move on and leave a school I was so happy in, to be a leader, and to do what he is doing.  
"He has inspired many teachers… to come to our school, often travelling large distances just to work with him. Your children have left Ashley School or are at Ashley School with an incredible belief about themselves. They have a real sense of how to protect our planet which we hear more and more on the news is important. They know how to work well with each other and they know how to look after themselves… At the same time they do fantastically well in their learning. Very, very good schools are able to find that balance.”  
Ashley was a very, very good school. Mr Dunne was an outstanding head teacher. The Good Shepherd Trust went out of their way to go through Mr Dunne’s record with the finest of toothcombs in order to string together the almost pitiful allegations you have before you. They were kept from Mr Dunne and he never had a proper opportunity to discuss or address them before he was suspended. 
The trauma Mr Dunne’s suspension inflicted on him and his family has been horrible to witness. Mr Dunne was a pillar of the community, and when his mysterious absence was announced we were told it was for personal reasons, and that he should not be contacted. He was deliberately isolated. It has taken great strength of character not to hide, or break down completely. Mr Dunne is a man of great integrity, removed from his job by the improper use of unaccountable power."
Mr Dunne needs any further references by Monday 11 May to forward to the TRA. Email  rjdunne64@gmail.com with a 'To whom it may concern' message and he says he will forward your email to the TRA via his lawyers. 

Please note that anonymous references will not count, but your reference doesn't have to be signed in the traditional sense - full name and email address is fine. Just state who you are and what your relationship to Mr Dunne is.

If you are a member of Ashley staff and worried about recriminations, a parent lawyer on the Ashley 4 Transparency team has raised this directly with the TRA. The TRA have confirmed that all references are treated in absolute confidence and are not disclosable by them to your employer. You can read the written confirmation of that here, or email Misconduct.TEACHER@education.gov.uk for further assurance.

Mr Dunne tells me every reference will make a difference. If you know him and you haven't already sent a note (it can be an epic like some of the ones above or it can be 3 - 5 lines long), please consider doing so.

Thank you.



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02 May 2020

Mr Dunne needs your help

Ashley School sign with Mr Dunne's name scrubbed out
The Good Shepherd Trust have referred their allegations against Mr Dunne to the Teacher Regulation Agency, including, weirdly, the ones about safeguarding on the Chamonix trip which were so poor they dropped them at their own internal disciplinary hearing against Mr Dunne last year.

The TRA has the power to remove Mr Dunne from the teacher register. So the three-pronged investigation the GST set in motion early last year in order to grub up some dirt could result in Mr Dunne being struck off for good.

Bearing in mind the findings at the conclusion of that investigation - not signing a form, not signing in and out of a broken entry system etc (you can read all about it here) - and bearing in mind Mr Dunne's detailed refutation of every allegation, this all seems crazily disproportionate.

Nonetheless, it seems Mr Dunne's career is on the line. This message is dated 29 April 2020 and first appeared via the Ashley 4 Transparency email. It reads:
"Dear friends, parents, colleagues and children, 
I hope you are keeping as well as can be expected in these extraordinary times. I am writing this message because I need your help.  
The Good Shepherd Trust has sent a number of allegations about me to the Teacher Regulation Agency.  I believe this is an attempt to get me struck off the teacher register. 
They allege financial impropriety with regard to Charlotte’s catering for the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts workshops five years ago, that the Single Central Record and safeguarding practices were not kept sufficiently up to date, for example I didn't sign up for a course in a timely enough fashion, and that there were safeguarding lapses on last year’s Chamonix trip. 
I believe none of these allegations have any merit whatsoever. I have refuted them all in detail, and I am taking legal action against the Trust.  
Nonetheless, I am told that now the TRA has received the Good Shepherd Trust’s allegations, they will be carrying out their own, separate investigation.
This is where I need your help. If you would be willing to send a character reference for me, I would be enormously grateful.  
My legal advisors (who you so kindly crowdfunded), tell me that character references in these investigations matter a great deal, as the Trust is questioning my professional and personal integrity. In this instance, the more I can get and send on to the TRA, the better.

The references only need to be 3-5 lines long. Please start with “To whom this may concern”, state who you are and your relationship to me (ie parent, ex-parent, former colleague/pupil, friend etc) and then write what you want to write.

Please send your references by email to me at rjdunne64@gmail.com - they will be collated and sent, in confidence, to the TRA.

I still cannot quite believe I am living this nightmare. I only ever wanted the best for your children and Ashley School. For no justifiable reason, the GST has cost me my job and is now trying to further damage my career. 
Your support over the past few months has been one of the things that has kept me and my family going. If you can find the time to email me just a few lines, I would be forever grateful. 
Thank you so much.

Richard Dunne"
According to the Ashley 4 Transparency group, Mr Dunne needs to receive any emails you can send him by 11 May 2020. So if you know him, get writing.

Interestingly, shortly after Mr Dunne's message was circulated by the A4T group, the following email was apparently sent to the staff at Ashley school by the interim head teacher Alex Clark:
"Subject: Advice on responding to RD request for character references 
Dear Colleague  
You may be aware that a post has been put on social media from Mr Dunne.  
Some staff have asked If, as a private individual, you wish to provide Mr Dunne with a character reference, that is your choice.  
If you have any concerns about, or need advice on, ensuring you do not breach any of your employee responsibilities, please contact me. 
It is important for you to be aware, as a Good Shepherd Trust employee, that your statement could be disclosed to all parties in any potential statutory investigation. 
I hope that helps Best wishes, Alex” [my italics]
Concerned this message might dissuade staff from sending a personal reference, a parent lawyer contacted the Teacher Regulation Agency. That parent says they were told unequivocally by the TRA that references are not disclosable.

I wrote to Mr Clark asking where he got his information from about the possible disclosability of references and if he could check its accuracy, especially as what he had written could be seen as an implied threat.

Whilst I was doing that, the parent lawyer went back to the Teacher Regulation Agency, got confirmation of the situation in writing and very kindly shared it with me. It is dated 1 May 2020 and is from Maureen Wills, a senior caseworker at the TRA's teacher misconduct unit. It reads:
"Further to our telephone conversation.

I confirm that:

Character references would need to have a name and signature annotated on the reference as without a name and signature they could be deemed to have been written by anybody and would not add weight. 
Character references are not disclosed to the referrer/employer at any point during a TRA investigation

Kind regards 
Maureen Wills 
Senior Caseworker, Teacher Misconduct Unit
Teaching Regulation Agency
Telephone: 07384521449
Cheylesmore House, 5 Quinton Road, Coventry CV1 2WT"
I hope the above message offers succour to the teachers and staff at Ashley school who want to express their support for Mr Dunne, but who are scared for their jobs. And I checked - emails are fine. They don't have to have a signature.

I asked the GST to comment on Mr Dunne's referral. They told me:
"The Good Shepherd Trust has a statutory duty to make a referral to the Teaching Regulations Agency (TRA) in line with the regulations laid out in Keeping Children Safe In Education. The same statutory guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding children makes it clear that no comment on any case can be made."
I have asked the school's parent governor, and the governor tasked with looking after staff welfare to look into the email sent by Alex Clark. I can't believe that Mr Clark would deliberately mislead his own staff on such an important matter and am looking forward to hearing where he got his incorrect information from.

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24 February 2020

A note on our children's alleged lack of preparedness for secondary school

The coffee mornings held before half term by Ashley interim head teacher Mr Clark have (according to some of the people I've spoken to) been useful. In them, Mr Clark made several assertions which were controversial, to say the least.

His ill-conceived "gotcha" on the school canteen's organic food content has already been cited in the resignation statement of Georgia Bailey, the Ashley school caterer.

The idea - first stated in Spring Term newsletter 4 - that 101 responses to the Ashley parents survey represented a quarter of families is just bad maths.

(It might represent a quarter of all families, but it could represent just over an eighth. The actual figure is likely somewhere in-between, depending on how many parents/carers from the same family completed a questionnaire).

Another statement which seemed to animate parents at the coffee mornings was the assertion that with Mr Dunne's curriculum, Ashley children were not being properly prepared for secondary school.

This has aroused strong feelings among parents whose children have been through Ashley school. It moved Laura Sutton to write the following letter to Mr Clark. She has kindly given me permission to reproduce it:

"Dear Mr Clark

I’ve been thinking a lot about what was discussed at the coffee morning last week. 

One thing that has really resonated is the point about the children missing parts of curriculum and not reaching their potential consequently.

Therefore, that is under review and the curriculum recommended by you is to be more closely aligned to the national curriculum benchmarks. Presumably this is to address some missing elements that are causing you grave concern for the future of Ashley children. 

I have two children who have left Ashley. They are twins in year 8.

My daughter, who was never a high flyer at Ashley - but steady, shy and sponge-like - is in all the top sets at her outstanding secondary school. She received a letter last week congratulating her on being in the top 10 girls in a 110-strong female pool for effort, attention and high performance.

My son, who has a one-on-one, as he did at Ashley, is in sets 3 out of 4. He has difficult challenges but passed his year 6 Sats in 2017 and is thriving at secondary well above expectations. He’s also dearly respected for being a kind and responsible boy with huge charm. He’s changing people’s perceptions about disability. 

The education and gentle care they both received at Ashley may not tick every national curriculum box. But it ticked very many other boxes that have made them both into very successful young seniors against their peer groups.

I know countless families where their Ashley children have completely smashed it at Secondary against their ‘full national curriculum’ counterpart peers. I think it is really important that this is given proper weight and not lost in the current reassessment.

A more homogenous education that ticks boxes is no replacement for the unique education our children have had at Ashley under Richard Dunne’s vision.

I think we are all sadly getting used to him being gone permanently. But it was hugely disappointing to hear you talk of how poorly the school has been educating our children when so many of us know that this is not true. I just do not accept this.

Our eldest kids have left Ashley as ‘middle of the roaders’ who are still streets ahead of peer school leavers whose schools follow process in the way I fear Ashley will do so now. A huge mistake in my opinion.

I have one child left at Ashley. He is bright and doing well. I’m sure he’ll help your league tables in a greater way than the twins did. But they all share great qualities, and these qualities are what will be their making - and are what are most important to us. Some are down to parenting. Many are down to their schooling at Ashley. 

Dry national curriculum teaching will not produce these qualities. Diverse and wide personal development - along with a sound all-round academic education - is what makes a great school environment. 

Please do not underestimate or undermine the quality of education that Ashley has been providing for many years. I am seriously saddened that this is not being understood by the GST and possibly now by you.

No institution is perfect. But Ashley has been an exceptional school on many levels for many years. The leavers prove this over and over, year after year. Spreadsheets don’t qualitatively assess this.

If you were to solicit feedback from other parents whose children have recently left Ashley, I expect 90% would say the same as I have. Surely this is one of the most important factors to take into consideration when reviewing the school’s success or otherwise?

Harmony, eco, a kind and an emotionally motivating/nurturing environment is what works above all other local schools - by a country mile. Ordinary schools that follow process fall well short.


Laura Sutton"

I have seen Mr Clark's response to Laura's letter. He acknowledges, but chooses not to address her points.

21 February 2020

Georgia Bailey resignation statement

Well this is very sad. I got the following yesterday from Georgia Bailey. I asked Georgia if she minded if I published it. She told me that's why she sent it.

Georgia works in the school kitchen for the company which supplies Ashley school's food:
"It is with so much regret that I have resigned as caterer of Ashley. I took the post to work alongside an inspirational head teacher, to push the boundaries of how good school food could be.  
Over the last few years we have been able to bring the percentage of fresh, seasonal, organic food to a level I would not have thought possible. This has taken hard work and dedication from a lot of people behind the scenes… I think we’re on our fifth greengrocer. 
However since Richard Dunne was forced to resign it has become clear that there is no longer the interest in maintaining our exceptional service. I have been told that we were deliberately misleading parents about the percentage of organics. This is simply not true. 
I have been told not to engage directly with parents, something that was previously encouraged. 
It seems that everything that Richard did to make Ashley such a unique school is being swept away. 
I feel that I have to stand up and be counted and I hope to continue to support Richard Dunne and his family, and the wider school community in seeking an independent inquiry into what has led to this. 
It has been my honour to feed Ashley’s children and staff and work with a team of people, both inside and outside the kitchen, who have been dedicated to the Harmony Project. 
Georgia Bailey."
I have asked Alex Clark and the Good Shepherd Trust for comment. I will post any response here.

I hope you are all enjoying half term. 

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.


24 January 2020

Dominic Raab MP writes to Secretary of State for Education

The MP for Esher and Walton, Dominic Raab (also the Foreign Secretary) wrote to his cabinet colleague Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education. on 23 Jan 2020, about the situation at Ashley School.

He wanted to "better understand what oversight and accountability can be exercised in relation to TGST" - ie the Good Shepherd Trust, which owns and runs Ashley School.

Mr Raab also cites the accusations of bullying, the concerns of local parents and the petition launched by Ashley Parents Lou and Tom Bradley.

Here it is the letter in full:

"Dear Gavin,

I am writing to you on behalf of nearly sixty constituents who have raised concerns at the removal of Mr Richard Dunne, the former headteacher of Ashley Church of England Primary
School in Walton on Thames. Ashley C of E School is one of 15 schools managed by The Good Shepherd Trust (TGST), a Multi-Academy Trust based in Guildford.

Mr Dunne resigned from his post as headteacher on 17 November 2019, after nearly eighteen
years as head, following an investigation conducted by TGST. TGST’s investigation
concluded with six charges of gross misconduct and one charge of serious misconduct. Mr
Dunne is formally challenging the findings and is seeking legal advice with the view to
bringing a claim for constructive dismissal.

The parents of children at Ashley C of E have contacted me to raise concerns about the
actions of TGST. They believe that the Trust has bullied and unfairly removed an exceptional
headteacher without good or proper reason.

With this in mind, a petition has since been launched (with over a thousand signatures), to ask
that the Department for Education (D of E) formally investigates the actions of TGST and its
handling of Mr Dunne’s case.

I enclose a copy of the relevant correspondence on this case, including a copy of the petition.
I appreciate the need to avoid interference in any employment tribunal proceedings that may
be brought in the future. Nevertheless, I wanted to raise directly with you the concerns of
local parents, and better understand what oversight and accountability can be exercised in
relation to the TGST - either by the D of E or Ofsted.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Dominic Raab"


For more context, you can read the allegations made against Mr Dunne (and his rebuttal) here.

This is the petition referred to in Mr Raab's letter.

Here is a detailed timeline of events.


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20 January 2020

The GST responds to publication of the allegations against Richard Dunne

On Friday 17 January 2020, this website published the Good Shepherd Trust's allegations against Ashley School head teacher, Richard Dunne. I asked the GST for comment before the allegations were published. They declined.

On Monday 20 January, the GST sent the following statement to parents:

"Statement from The Good Shepherd Trust

Ashley Church of England Primary School

The Good Shepherd Trust is aware of an online article published on Friday 17th January which purports to provide an informed narrative concerning the circumstances surrounding the resignation of the former co-headteacher of Ashley Church of England Primary School.

The article makes a number of allegations against individuals, including current members of staff, Local Governing Committee members and Trustees.

Additionally, in recent weeks, the integrity of the Trust and its commitment to Ashley school has been called into question.

Since September 2019, the Trust has made every effort to ensure that these employment matters remained confidential in order to protect Mr Dunne. The Trust also has a duty of care to serving members of staff who are entitled to be able to work in a secure and supportive environment without fear or intimidation.

It is a matter of regret that Mr Dunne chose to resign the night before a disciplinary and capability hearing which had already been postponed twice before at Mr Dunne􏰀s request. Having agreed to those delays, the panel was extremely disappointed Mr Dunne then chose not to attend the hearing. Had he done so, he would have had the opportunity to present evidence and set out his position in full.

While Mr Dunne is understandably most concerned with his personal situation, it is very disappointing and unfortunate that despite continued efforts by the Trust to maintain confidentiality and protect its staff, the author of the article has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the professional welfare of the serving school staff.

The Trust has referred the content of the investigation to statutory, regulatory authorities who will consider the evidence themselves. Mr Dunne is aware these processes are underway and is able to submit evidence to these independent bodies.

Since September, the Trust has been in regular contact with the Department for Education, the Regional Schools Commissioner, Ofsted, Surrey County Council and others to ensure that these stakeholders and agencies have been briefed appropriately and are aware of this matter.

The Trust and the Local Governing Committee remain committed to working in partnership with all parents and has recently launched the Ashley Parent Partnership to improve communication between the school, parents and the wider community.

Ashley Church of England Primary School continues to be a very highly valued member of our Trust family. We believe that the school has a strong future. Building on its achievements, we are committed to excellent educational outcomes for all the children in our care.

As part of that commitment, the Trust has appointed a National Leader of Education, Mr Alex Clark, to ensure that the school is well led, managed and focused on delivering school improvement.

Children remain at the heart of everything we do. Our hope is that everyone in the school community will work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for all the children in our care."


For more on this please see the detailed timeline of events.

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17 January 2020

Finally, the allegations against Mr Dunne

Richard Dunne
Ashley School's head teacher of 18 years, Richard Dunne, was suspended on 10 September 2019 after a number of allegations were made against him by his employer, the Good Shepherd Trust.

On 18 November 2019 Mr Dunne wrote a letter to staff, parents, carers and children stating that he strongly rejected all the allegations: "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."

Without being told what Mr Dunne was alleged to have, er, done, it has been difficult for everyone to work out why he was turfed out of the school. I think we have a right to know. I have now spoken to enough people and seen enough documentation to at least be able to give you the exact wording of the allegations against Mr Dunne and the dread crimes they allude to. I have also seen Mr Dunne's response.

But first, some context.

In 2014, one of the biggest fans of the Good Shepherd Trust was Richard Dunne. Ashley School, under Mr Dunne's leadership, had developed an independent and successful ethos, but that ethos was under threat. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, had a clear idea of what a primary school curriculum should look like. It would mean big changes for Ashley.

With a view to escaping the clutches of local authority control, the school approached the Good Shepherd Trust. They were pushing at an open door.

On 1 Sep 2014, the school became part of the trust and Nigel Stapleton, the Chair of Ashley's board of governors, became a GST trustee. Everyone was happy. The GST had its first outstanding school and access to a highly motivated and experienced senior leadership team. Richard Dunne felt free to continue developing and implementing his educational philosophy at Ashley, based on the principles of natural Harmony and environmental awareness.

For the first three years all seemed to be going well, with the school being left to develop its own unique curriculum. The first signs things were changing came with a significant increase in meetings at the GST offices in Guildford in 2017/8, which required Mr Dunne's attendance. Mr Dunne felt, after a while, that the meetings were not in the best interests of Ashley school. He became increasingly convinced the trust was far too focused on empire-building, and was losing sight of what he understood it to be about.

Allegations of bullying

At the same time, there was also a curious dynamic developing around Ashley's board of governors (now officially known as the Local Governing Committee, or LGC). Governors' meetings became combative affairs, with Nigel Stapleton, and Rev Cathy Blair, (the governors' vice-chair) setting the tone.

One former governor said he saw an: "aggressive and confrontational attitude take hold, driven by Nigel and Cathy which, with hindsight, I wish I had challenged more robustly at the time... Richard [Dunne] was often spoken to in a very confrontational and aggressive way, which was tantamount to bullying. It became so aggressive at one stage that Cathy was told to apologise to Richard which she reluctantly did, but it wouldn't surprise me if she had an issue with him ever since."

The clerk to the governors at the time was Sienna Alcock. She describes Nigel Stapleton as being "aggressive" and treating Mr Dunne in a "demeaning" manner. She also felt that the governors, particularly Mr Stapleton, were "micro managing" the school - over-reaching their strategic remit.

In the summer of 2017, Ms Alcock was invited to become a foundation governor. She accepted, but was still concerned about Mr Stapleton's behaviour. 

During a meeting with three other governors, set up to discuss the toxic environment at the LGC and the behaviour of Nigel Stapleton and Cathy Blair, Ms Alcock offered to become temporary chair of the LGC, to try to relieve some of the tension and give the school a fresh start.

This idea was taken to Nigel Stapleton. He wasted no time in having Ms Alcock removed from the picture. Instead of receiving the paperwork for the next governors meeting, Sienna Alcock received nothing. When she enquired as to what was going on, she was told she was no  longer going to be an Ashley governor on 1 September 2017 as agreed. No letter, no warning. Ms Alcock says "it was clear my attempts to speak up about the situation were met with an attempt to silence me." She later complained. The GST refused to investigate.

In the course of putting this piece together I have discovered that a number serious allegations about the behaviour of Nigel Stapleton towards Richard Dunne and others have been made known to the Good Shepherd Trust.

One of those complaints, by a former member of Ashley staff, alleges that Nigel Stapleton was "rude and aggressive", "intimidating" and "inappropriate and offensive" towards her, concluding that she felt she was "being bullied out of my job." The trust again refused to investigate.

In the last few weeks, Alex Tear, the CEO of the GST has reiterated that "The trust is committed to its duty of care for all staff, including former staff" and Simon Walker, the Chair of the GST has stated: "I take allegations of bullying of any kind very seriously."

Yet the trust appears to have done nothing to investigate complaints about Nigel Stapleton, and don't appear to be taking multiple allegations of bullying very seriously at all. 

The asset-stripping

In September 2018, the GST removed Ashley's deputy head teacher Jackie Stevens from the school for half the week. This was to help run the trust's ailing Farnborough Grange Infant School in Hampshire. Mr Dunne was told he too would have to take time out from Ashley to assist at Farnborough Grange as the School Improvement and Intervention Board Chair, running meetings at the school every other week.

The same month the School's Business Manager, Di Goodhugh, was asked by the trust to attend regular meetings in Guildford to discuss a potential role for her as the trust's Head of Finance. This meant that from the beginning of Autumn Term 2018, Ms Goodhugh was absent from the school approximately half the week. This had a significant impact on the ability of the school office to operate effectively.

In October Di Goodhugh informed Mr Dunne she was leaving to become the GST's Head of Finance with almost immediate effect. Although the trust's business manager Gill Farmer stepped in to help out part-time, the school had been left in the lurch. Both the school's full-time office staff resigned in the following weeks.

At the end of 2018, the trust instructed Jackie Stevens to become full time head teacher at Farnborough Grange for the rest of the academic year. Mr Dunne was told he was going to be made an executive head, initially responsible for Farnborough Grange and Ashley School, something he did not want to do.

In January 2019, Mr Herbert, the school’s Premises Manager, announced he was going to be absent from the school all term to recover from two major knee operations.

Ashley School was now without a premises manager, a full time business manager and a deputy head teacher. The school's leadership was stripped down to Richad Dunne, an Assistant Head, and a two days-a-week business manager - 12 management days a week in total. By comparison Ashley currently has a head, a three day-a-week deputy, two assistant heads and a two day-a-week business manager - 25 management days a week in total.

On top of the day-to-day business of running the school, Mr Dunne knew he had a challenging year 6 cohort coming through, and he says he was being put under pressure by the trust to maintain Ashley's results record. He felt unsupported, and was struggling.

The protected disclosure

On 9 January 2019, Richard Dunne wrote an email to Nigel Stapleton, outlining his concerns about the situation and the trust's actions in what he felt was the asset-stripping of the school. Fatally, and perhaps naïvely, Mr Dunne questioned whether it was in Ashley's best interests to remain in the Good Shepherd Trust. Mr Dunne later described his email as a confidential "cry for help". In his eyes, he was making a protected disclosure.

Nigel Stapleton replied to the email, copying in the chief executive of the trust, and one of the trust's directors of education, Kate Evans. Mr Stapleton told Mr Dunne: “it appears to me that you are, in your current perception of your role, living in a “Bubble” and taking little recognition of the realities of the educational world." He concluded “what worries me still more is if this reflects accurately your motivation and commitment to GST. If it does, then the future looks bleak!”

Mr Dunne says he was "utterly stunned" by Nigel Stapleton's response in copying in his bosses, and felt that from that moment on, the trust had marked his card. Maybe he was right.

But you can't get rid of a head teacher just like that. You need dirt.

The problem was, Mr Dunne didn't seem to be doing much wrong. Staff were loyal and committed, results were good, parents* were happy and he was developing a national reputation for his work on the Harmony curriculum.

But if you're really determined...

The evidence gathering

Over the early part of 2019 Kate Evans became more visible at Ashley. Rather than spend her time with Mr Dunne, she instead seemed to be having regular conversations with another member of staff. Let's call her "Ms X".

As the trust began going over the school and Mr Dunne's personal record with a fine toothcomb, Ashley school's year 6 Chamonix trips were approaching. Mr Dunne was leading one of them, and any safeguarding problems on the trip would give the trust a field day. Whilst the children were in Chamonix, Ms X was receiving secret texts from another a (now departed) member of staff alleging  safeguarding lapses. The allegations were passed to the GST without Mr Dunne's knowledge.

The trust appointed one of its directors of education, Amanda Johnston, as investigating officer. Donning the gumshoes, Johnston PI began to record video interviews to gather evidence against Mr Dunne. This little exercise hit a bump when Ms Johnston pointed her camera at Jenna Caswell, an Ashley special needs assistant, who was on Mr Dunne's 2019 Chamonix trip.

Jenna Caswell left Ashley School at the end of the last academic year and is now a police officer. She has been to Chamonix a number of times, and is adamant that in 2019, there were no safeguarding issues whatsoever. Jenna described it as an "amazing week", adding that "the children loved it and they were all safe and well."

Whilst on the trip Jenna spoke to her colleague about the constant texts and asked her why she was sending them. Her colleague said she had been asked to send them by Ms X.

After everyone had returned to England, Jenna was approached by Ms X to become a whistleblower against Mr Dunne. She refused.

Amanda Johnston was perhaps unaware of this when she invited Jenna to take part in a filmed interview. 

During the interview Jenna gave her both barrels. She not only made it quite clear she did not witness any safeguarding lapses in Chamonix, she made a counter-complaint against Ms X for her constant attempts to undermine Mr Dunne (which apparently started well before Chamonix) and Ms X's efforts to encourage other members of staff to do the same. Ms Johnston didn't appear to be interested in Jenna's comments about Ms X.

Jenna has not been able to find out what happened to her on-camera complaint against Ms X. It doesn't look like it was investigated.

Because it has been so difficult for any current staff member to speak out (save the letter most of the non-management staff sent to the GST last year), I asked Jenna (as someone who spent many years at the school and who only left last year) what she thought of Richard Dunne.

She said: "He opens the children's eyes. He lets them see what is happening to our world around us. He explains the importance of us looking after our planet. The Chamonix trip is the best trip I've ever been on - to see the change in the children of achieving climbing a mountain, going on a cable car, new experiences and probably the first time they have been away from their parents. My daughter did this trip the week before us, and she came back with a whole new outlook on the world. He inspires the children to make a change."

The co-headship

Whilst the trust was compiling its allegations, it had to deal with a request from Jackie Stevens. Mrs Stevens was not having a good time at Farnborough Grange. The stress of dealing with a difficult school and the considerable amount of travelling time was getting to her. She wanted to return to Ashley.

A solution presented itself. Mr Dunne was keen to continue the Harmony work he had been developing and sought a clear distinction between sharing the curriculum beyond Ashley and his day to day job leading the school. Mr Dunne and Jackie Stevens had been colleagues for more than a decade and trusted each other completely. After much discussion, a new leadership structure with two co-headteachers and two assistant heads was agreed with the trust. Despite the horrors of 2018/9, it looked possible that Richard Dunne would be able to put the year behind him and work with Jackie Stevens to get Ashley motoring again.

But what the trust giveth with one hand, it also taketh away. Before the end of summer term, Richard Dunne was told he was the subject of a "fact-finding" investigation.

The suspension

On 9 September 2019, in the first week of Autumn term, Mr Dunne and Mrs Stevens told parents in their first newsletter of the year, how they were "both very much looking forward to working together in our co-headship role."

A day later, Richard Dunne was summoned to an "informal" meeting at the GST's offices in Guildford. He was met by the trust's interim CEO Alex Tear and  Kate Evans.

Mr Dunne was handed a list of 18 allegations and told he was suspended. His lanyard, keys and laptop were taken away, denying him access to his emails and essential documentation.

The trust and school then misled parents by telling them Mr Dunne was absent from school for "personal" reasons. They were told not to approach him.

Mr Dunne was understandably distraught. He had led the school for 18 years and was at the heart of a community of supportive families who thought highly of him. Mr Dunne's daughter was still at the school. Suddenly he was sitting at home, cut off from the job he loved.

At first Mr Dunne sought his union's help, then he went to a lawyer. He asked the trust to push back his disciplinary hearing to 18 November as he needed to gather the evidence to support his case. He made a subject access request (SAR) to the trust. This request would compel the trust to hand over all the information they held on Mr Dunne, including any communication between trust and school staff.

As the hearing approached, Mr Dunne still had not received all the documents he had requested. He asked for the hearing to be pushed back again. The trust refused.

The hearing

On the 17 November, concerned he didn't have the documentation he needed to prove his case, and by now reasonably sure he wasn't going to get a fair hearing, Richard Dunne sent a letter of resignation to the trust by email.

On receipt of this letter, summoning all five of its values - trust, love, courage, respect and integrity - the GST decided it was not sufficiently clear to have confirmed that Mr Dunne had definitely resigned. With this strange doubt lurking in their minds, the trust decided Mr Dunne's disciplinary hearing could still go ahead.

The disciplinary panel solemnly assembled in Guildford on the morning of 18 November. Richard Dunne was not present. Nor was his lawyer. Those who did attend were:

Yvonne McLeod (GST director, expert in distribution, logistics and change management)
Louise Pollock (GST director, economist and mindfulness teacher)
Amanda Johnston (GST director of education and disciplinary panel's Investigating Officer),
Joanne Cambra (GST HR director and adviser to the Investigating Officer),
Richard Hiron (from Judicium Consulting Limited, as HR adviser to the panel)
Chloe Benson (Notetaker)

The hearing was chaired by Simon Walker, chair of the GST's board of trustees.

Immediately, 11 of the 18 allegations presented to Mr Dunne at the beginning of term were dropped. This was partly thanks to Jenna Caswell, who had provided a statement to Mr Dunne's lawyer, and the patient work of Mr Dunne himself, who had collated some of the evidence he needed.

However, seven allegations remained.

The allegations in full

The panel considered the remaining allegations put to Mr Dunne. They were:

1) boundaries are blurred between parents and staff, with inappropriately casual relationships and attitudes to school, possibly resulting in safeguarding concerns;

2) the school is vulnerable with statutory matters not adhered to;

3) safeguarding is not a priority;

4) you instruct other senior leaders to exclude pupils when only the Head teacher has authority to do so;

5) you may have failed to sign in and sign out on several occasions from September 2018 to date thereby failing to comply with the School's procedures;

6) only registering to attend a DSL [designated safeguarding lead] course in July 2019 despite being instructed to register on 16 November 2018 and again on 14 May 2019;

7) you may have breached the Academies Financial Handbook by commissioning a service (with payment) to a company of which you are a Director and failing to declare this interest, including after intervention from the Trust's Finance Manager.

All the allegations were upheld. Mr Dunne was issued with an "outcomes letter" on 21 November telling him he had been found guilty of gross misconduct in his absence, but as the trust had now managed to convince themselves he had resigned on 17 November, he no longer had any right of appeal.

On a quick read, allegation...

1) appears to allege either Mr Dunne or his staff are too nice,
2) and 3) are a little opaque,
4) is either true or untrue,
5) is quite extraordinary,
6) could do with some context, and
7) is, of course, the infamous catering racket, where Mr Dunne was found guilty of not signing a form he had requested, but not been given.

Each upheld complaint was accompanied by references to evidence which was not present in the documentation I have seen.

On 13 December Mr Dunne sent a letter to the GST in response to their disciplinary panel's findings.

Using the outcomes letter and Mr Dunne's response, I have tried to set out below the main thrust of the disciplinary panel's findings and the main thrust of Mr Dunne's responses as clearly as I am able. It really is quite a read. Here goes:

Allegation 1) boundaries are blurred between parents and staff, with inappropriately casual relationships and attitudes to school, possibly resulting in safeguarding concerns;

The trust said:
"parents and carers were able to access the School premises quite freely and that DBS checks were routinely not undertaken in relation to members of staff and volunteers (including your own wife). These clearly posed a significant risk of harm to pupils."
Mr Dunne said:
"The reasons given by the disciplinary panel for upholding this allegation do not relate to the allegation that there are inappropriately casual relationships with parents. Instead, the evidence relied upon relates to the DBS checks of staff and volunteers and parents being able to access the School’s premises... this is because there was no evidence that I had caused the blurring of boundaries between parents and staff nor that I had created inappropriately casual relationships with parents... For completeness, I also categorically refute the allegations that parents were able to enter the School’s premises freely except for the beginning and end of the school day when they would come in to drop off and collect their children. It is the School’s policy that parents must sign in and out of the School if they are to be on the School’s premises during the school day. All staff are aware of this policy and the signing in / out process is managed on a day-to-day basis by the School office (not myself) when parents come into Reception."
On the specific allegations concerning Mr Dunne's wife, Charlotte, Mr Dunne says:
"My wife has been a volunteer at the School for 18 years and whenever she provided support to the School to help with pupil’s reading, she was always with the Class Teacher and a Teaching Assistant. She was never left alone with the children and instead was always supervised. This means that there was no legal requirement for her to have a DBS check. 
Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that whilst it may be considered best practice, there is in fact no legal requirement for a DBS check to be renewed. However, notwithstanding this, when the School’s Business Manager flagged to my wife that her DBS had “expired”, my wife completed the necessary paperwork and provided it to the School’s Business Manager for processing. My wife was therefore of the understanding that everything had been actioned, but the School’s Business Manager failed to process the form and my wife’s DBS check was therefore not updated."
Allegation 2) the school is vulnerable with statutory matters not adhered to;

The trust said:
"your conduct gave rise to safeguarding concerns, serious neglect of health and safety procedures, serious breach of confidence, serious misuse of position, conduct that brings the Trust's name into disrepute, conduct that risks the viability of the Trust and gross negligence."
Mr Dunne said:
"I do not accept that the School was vulnerable to statutory matters, and the Trust has not provided evidence of this... no details of what I have allegedly done have been provided."
Allegations 3) safeguarding is not a priority;

The trust said:
"your conduct over a period of time demonstrated a clear lack of understanding and a clear lack of interest in the safeguarding processes and procedures that the Trust and its policies have made clear is paramount for the protection of the pupils that come to the Trust for education in a safe and secure environment... you demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the appropriate procedures to be followed and of the urgency in ensuring that the pupils under your care were protected."
Mr Dunne said:
"This allegation is categorically denied. Firstly, I wish to make it clear that before the Trust’s witch-hunt commenced against me there had been no safeguarding concerns raised against me by staff or parents during my 18 years’ service at the School. Safeguarding was always a priority to me and I believe this is evidenced by the fact that when I joined the School’s Safeguarding Committee in January 2019, I increased the number of meetings so that they were held every other week rather than once a month."
"In relation to the Single Central Record, I accept that a Safeguarding Audit found that it had not been kept up to date. However, this in no way infers that safeguarding was not a priority to me. The day-to-day responsibility for the Single Central Record had been delegated to the School’s Business Manager and the Deputy Headteacher who was the School’s DSL. I believe that they had both failed to keep the Single Central Record up to date because they had been out of the School so much working on Trust matters. However, once I became aware of the issues with the Single Central Record, I took over responsibility for it and ensured that any missing information was rectified as quickly as possible. I liaised closely with the School office and the Trust Business Manager regarding this and can confirm that it was in an immaculate state by early in the Spring Term. Once all the issues had been rectified, I would also regularly check it over to make sure that this remained the case on an on-going basis (which it did)."
Allegation 4) you instruct other senior leaders to exclude pupils when only the Head teacher has authority to do so;

The trust said:
"In your role of Head teacher of the School, you are expected to be aware of the relevant processes and procedures for excluding a child of school age. The Panel reviewed the witness evidence and the documentation available, including your own evidence and found that you had delegated your exclusion responsibilities to other senior leaders."
Mr Dunne said:
"I would like to make it clear that I do not believe that this allegation is factually accurate as it suggests that this is something I did on a regular basis when in fact I believe it relates to one occasion where I spoke to [Ms X] about a potential exclusion that may need to take place at the School before I had to leave to go to a SIIB [School Improvement and Intervention Board] meeting at Farnborough Grange. I therefore categorically deny that this was a common practice within the School. I would also like to make it very clear that I was fully aware that I was the only person who could exclude a pupil at the School and this is evidenced by the fact that, to my knowledge, there has never been an exclusion that has taken place at the School whilst I was Headteacher that was actioned by anybody other than myself."
Allegation 5) you may have failed to sign in and sign out on several occasions from September 2018 to date thereby failing to comply with the School's procedures;

The biggie. The trust said:
"given your seniority in the position of Head teacher, it was your responsibility to ensure that proper standards of behaviour were set and to act as a role model for staff, pupils and, to some extent, parents and carers as well. The Panel also took into account the factual evidence which demonstrated that the system for signing in and out of the School was working at the relevant times."
Mr Dunne said:
"This allegation is categorically refuted. It was well known within the School and the Trust that the new signing in / out system that was introduced at the School in August / September 2018 had teething problems and did not work properly. These problems included an inability to sign-in / sign out as well as some staffs cards not working. My card did not work and I was therefore unable to sign in / out for an extended period of time. However, whilst I was waiting for a replacement card, I would always let the School office know that I was in work so that this could be accurately recorded, and I would always wear a lanyard as I had done for many years. With regards to signing out, it was again well known within School that almost on a daily basis, there would be a block of staff who would not show up as having signed out (even though they did) and this resulted in the default time of 23:59 being allocated. I therefore simply do not accept that when my sign out time is shown as being 23:59 that I failed to sign out and instead assert that it is because the system failed to work properly."
Incidentally, the signing in and out system has since been abandoned and replaced.

Allegation 6) only registering to attend a DSL [designated safeguarding lead] course in July 2019 despite being instructed to register on 16 November 2018 and again on 14 May 2019;

The trust said:
"The Panel found that there had been significant delay between your receiving a legitimate management instruction to attend a course to ensure that you could effectively lead the safeguarding procedures at the School, during which time you were reminded of the need to do so.  
The Panel was also mindful that your own evidence demonstrated a clear lack of appreciation and understanding of the importance that the safety of pupils at the School is paramount before anything else must be considered."
Mr Dunne said:
"This allegation is refuted as it is simply not true. Firstly, I do not accept that I was given a management instruction to attend a DSL course on 16th November 2018. This is because I was not part of the School’s Safeguarding Committee at this point in time and the meeting that took place on 16th November 2018 was in relation to Farnborough Grange and my role as Chair of the SIIB. Both my previous lawyer and I repeatedly asked for the evidence that showed I was asked to attend the training in November 2018 and to date, the Trust has failed to provide this.  
I joined the School’s Safeguarding Committee in January 2019 when Jackie Stevens, who was the School’s DSL, was seconded to work at Farnborough Grange full-time. As soon as it became clear that Jackie would not be returning to the School for the remainder of the Academic Year, I registered to attend a DSL training course. I attended a DSL training course on 12th March 2019 and also went to a Spring Term DSL Network Meeting the following week on 19th March 2019. I believe that these timescales are wholly reasonable in view of the fact I was trying to run the School with a significantly reduced Leadership Team, as outlined above. 
With regard to the follow-up DSL training, when I was questioned by Kate Evans in May 2019 as to why this had not been completed, I explained to her that it was because the training provider in March had told me that the follow-up training would take place during the Autumn Term and to hold off until then. Upon Kate learning this, she directed me to attend the follow-up training with a different provider and I booked the course within 24 hours of her request having been made. The different provider had no availability for May or June and I therefore attended the course in July 2019. 
Finally, I believe it is important to make clear that whilst I was in the process of completing my DSL training, the School still had 3 DSLs - Tiffany Holder, Louise Athersuch and Maggie Rebbeck, as well as two other staff members (Katy Luxford and Joanne Hart) who had DSL training at the School. Therefore, the School was in no way left vulnerable in terms of suitably trained DSLs, especially in view of the fact there is a legal requirement for a school to only have one DSL."
Allegation 7) you may have breached the Academies Financial Handbook by commissioning a service (with payment) to a company of which you are a Director and failing to declare this interest, including after intervention from the Trust's Finance Manager.

Ah, the catering racket. This allegation was signposted in Nigel Stapleton's end of term letter to parents on 18 Dec 2019. Charlotte Dunne's magnificent reply was circulated before Christmas. Read both here.

In the outcomes letter of 21 Nov, this is what the trust said:
"The Panel considered the frequency of the authorisation of the payments and the length of the period over which they were made. It was found that you had authorised payments to a company in which you were both a Director and in which you exercised significant control, without complying with the requirements set out in the Academies Financial Handbook. It was found that this was a serious misuse of your position and demonstrated a severe disregard for both statutory requirements and the rules of the Trust. Moreover, the Panel found that your conduct in this regard held the potential to cause serious reputational damage to the Trust, which in turn could cause severe detriment to its credibility and its funding."
Mr Dunne's response was:
"I understand that this allegation relates to my wife’s company, RJ and CJ Consulting Ltd, of which I am a Director but had no involvement with on a day-to-day basis at the time of the allegation.
It is important to highlight that both the School and the Trust have known about my wife’s company and my link to it for many years. It was never something that was hidden and instead was something that was widely known. This is because since 2009, and at the request of Nigel Stapleton, my wife was asked to do the catering for the Governors’ ‘thank you’ meal for staff at the end of the School’s Academic Year. My wife did not do this every year but did do the catering in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2017. This was not something that I suggested or was involved in. It was instead something that was commissioned by Nigel Stapleton as the School’s Chair of Governors. It is therefore incredulous that the Trust is now trying to infer that they were not aware of my interest in this company, especially given that Nigel Stapleton is also the Chair of the Trust’s Finance Committee. 
In addition, my wife also did the catering for workshops that were run by an outside organisation called the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts on the School’s Premises. Again, this was all above board - the School Business Manager knew what was happening and the Governors were aware of these events and my wife’s role in doing the catering. Some of the Governors even attended the workshops. My wife’s invoices for these events were not even addressed to the School and instead were addressed to the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Furthermore, once concerns regarding this arrangement were raised by Di Goodhugh, my wife stopped providing the catering to Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and the catering was instead provided by a different third party. 
For clarity, this decision to change the catering supplier took place in November 2018, almost 9 months before the allegation was made against me.
Once again, I believe that this has been an attempt by the Trust to manipulate the allegations / evidence in order to make a finding of gross misconduct against me when it is simply unjustified to do so. My involvement in my wife’s company was wholly above board and has been since 2009 when her services were first used by the Governors. 
I accept that a 'declarations of interest’ form was never completed about this, but when this was flagged to me by Di Goodhugh, the Trust’s Head of Finance by this stage, in June 2019, I confirmed that I was happy to complete the form and asked for her to provide me with a copy of it. Email evidence can confirm this. However, she never did. Instead it became an allegation against me."
So there you have it. It's easy to see why Richard Dunne (and some of the more perceptive parents, to use Nigel Stapleton's phrase) believe this has been a total stitch-up. 

That's not to say Mr Dunne may not have made mistakes. If you scrutinise everyone's actions and activities at work, especially if they are under pressure and under-staffed, you'll find occasions where errors are made. Striving for perfection is a lovely idea, achieving it at the best of times is impossible. We are all human.

Dealing with oversights, errors and omissions is about proportionality. It's hard to see the proportionality in finding someone guilty of gross misconduct for not signing in or out of school when they say they simply weren't able to.

Mr Dunne alleges this lack of proportionality and fairness goes deeper. In his letter of 13 Dec, he says:
"the Trust failed to follow fair and reasonable processes.... [including] failing to provide me with any real detail as to what the allegations meant so that I could not properly defend myself... suspending me without justified grounds and providing me with no support or access to my emails during my suspension... inviting me to a disciplinary hearing and capability hearing within the same invite letter even though they are entirely separate processes and should have been dealt with in accordance with their separate corresponding policies; failing to postpone the disciplinary and capability hearings... failing to raise allegations in a timely manner; failing to speak to me on an informal basis about any of the concerns before deciding to deal with them formally many months later; failing to provide any kind of support for me to help address any of the allegations; and failing to consider all the evidence available and instead relying on the evidence that achieved the Trust’s desired outcome..."
Whilst Mr Dunne was suspended the staff at Ashley sent a letter expressing their increasing concerns about Mr Dunne's absence, reminding the trust that:
"Richard’s dedication to the children of Ashley School, its staff and community is inspirational. His passion for providing the best quality experiential teaching and learning is at the core of Ashley School’s ethos."
309 parents also sent a letter to the trust noting:
"We wish to express our strong support for Mr Dunne, who as the Headteacher of 18 years standing is not only integral to and synonymous with Ashley School in a professional capacity, but is also a parent to a young child at the school."
The governors were conspicuous by their failure to offer Mr Dunne any public support whatsoever.

This is about accountability. I am publishing this piece in the public interest. There needs to be an independent investigation into the Good Shepherd Trust so that conversations, communications and decisions which led to the suspension of Mr Dunne can be scrutinised. If there is evidence of a witch-hunt, the relevant staff can be disciplined and Mr Dunne can receive an apology.

Also, given the serious nature of the allegations against Nigel Stapleton (a GST trustee and chair of Ashley's board of governors, let's not forget), they ought to be pursued with the same zeal the trust applied to Mr Dunne's investigation.

One respected former member of staff told me:
"The way the Governing Body and the GST treated Richard is deplorable. I am sad to say whilst working at Ashley, I saw a great man, who dedicated his life to the teaching profession and Ashley School, treated with a complete lack of respect. I have little faith in their stewardship of the school."
If the trust and the LGC have behaved by the book over the last three years, then no one should have anything to worry about.

My concern is that if the GST and LGC are not properly investigated, they will be free to treat staff, parents and possibly even children in the same manner they treated Mr Dunne, and I am not sure I want that.


As you might expect, before I published this piece, I gave the Good Shepherd Trust, Nigel Stapleton and Cathy Blair the opportunity to respond. I received the following on Thu 16 January from Nick Clarke, the trust's PR man:

"I’ve passed your questions to the Good Shepherd Trust. They have asked me to refer you to the previous statement issued to all Ashley School parents on 25th November. The Trust will not be responding to further questions or queries in relation to this matter."

Nigel Stapleton and Rev Cathy Blair have not acknowledged my requests.


Some parents have set up a petition asking for an independent investigation of the GST's actions. You can read what they have to say and sign it here.

Richard Dunne is crowdfunding his legal fees to take on the GST. You can contribute here, but only until the end of Jan, when it closes!

The GST response to the above piece.


You can read the 25 November statement to parents here.

This is an open letter to the GST/LGC demanding a full, independent investigation into what the GST/LGC have been up to.

This is a detailed timeline of events.

And if you're wondering who Richard Dunne is, click here to watch one of his TEDx talks.

* please assume all references to parents includes carers (and on occasion also ex-parents/carers. Once an Ashley parent, always an Ashley parent!)


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