02 January 2020

Ashley School results stats

There appears to have been some disquiet about Ashley School's stats, and the way they are being presented to parents. The trust has issued the school with a Notice to Improve, and Simon Walker, the chair of the Good Shepherd Trust, said on 15 Dec: "the performance at Ashley has slipped considerably (since 2016) so as to be a long way below that of our higher performing schools."

You could put that another way and say: "since we took over in 2014, things have gone downhill", but before we start discussing whether or not the Good Shepherd Trust wish to acknowledge this, we should perhaps ask if it it true.

Is Ashley slipping? And if so, who is to blame?

Richard Dunne has already responded to Nigel Stapleton's circular of 18 Dec, stating:

"if the school’s leadership is undermined as it was last year, it makes performing well more of a challenge."


"Last January the school had a Headteacher, an Assistant Head and a part-time Trust Business Manager. This January there will be a Headteacher, a part-time Deputy Head three days a week, two Assistant Heads, an Office Manager and a part-time Trust Business Manager. That is more than double the leadership resources. If the school had not been stripped of its senior resources last year, the results are likely to have been even stronger." [read the letter in full here]

This is useful evidence and it's good to see a fuller picture emerging.

I hope the following contributes to that. It is a report very kindly written br Dr Roger Hutchins who has a grandchild at Ashley School. Dr Hutchins has scraped quite a bit of the publicly available data about Ashley School and analysed it. He makes a further comment about the Richard Dunne response at the bottom of his report. I hope you find it useful:

"Has Ashley’s performance slipped considerably since 2016?
by Dr Roger Hutchins B.A. (Hons), PGCE, MAEd, EdD
1. A personal introduction
Roger Hutchins
My name is Roger Hutchins. Although now retired, most of my working life was spent within education. After teaching in a junior school in Twickenham, I moved to Portsmouth where I worked for 22 years as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)/ Inclusion Manager in three primary schools. For much of that time I was a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) in each of these schools. I served as a governor for nine years in one of them. For five years I was an Associate Lecturer at the University of Chichester, training SENCOs from across the south of England as part of the National SENCO Accreditation programme. In 2013 I completed an educational doctorate with the University of London, researching into aspects of assessment and testing in the primary school sector. I have co-authored five books for Teaching Assistants.
One of my grandchildren attends Ashley whom I regularly drop off and pick up from school. That is my only involvement with the school. I do not know or have ever met any staff member (past or present) or governor (past or present) and have no connection with the Good Shepherd Trust. The only parents I know are the members of my family and their immediate friends.
2. The school context
The following is taken from the latest inspection report by the Diocese of Guildford: Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) 17 October 2017 (NB This is an inspection distinct from and different to OFSTED)
Current SIAMS inspection grade: Outstanding
Ashley CE School is a large primary with 510 pupils on roll. The majority of children are from a White British background. The proportion of pupils receiving SEN support, and those with English as second language is below the national average. Relatively few pupils come from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
The school, through its distinctive Christian character, is good at meeting the needs of all learners.
The effectiveness of the religious education is outstanding.
The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the school as a church school is good.
3. Be aware
In this paper there are no headlines, sound bites or twitter feeds. The world of school assessment is too complex and too important to yield itself to such simplistic modes of communication. All the data in this paper are in the public domain. References are linked and clicking on them will take you to the source. The school will have more detailed information regarding individual pupils and specific groups of pupils, but such information is obviously confidential. Nothing that is open to public scrutiny should aid in the identification of any one individual or group of individuals.
The following four sections do not necessarily make for easy reading, but they are essential to be grasped if an accurate understanding and interpretation of school statistics is to be had.
4. A word about averages and percentages
4.1 In the world of school assessment the word ‘average’ is used a lot. We need to be clear what is meant by that term. Two types of averages are used in school statistics. The most common is the mean average when test scores are totalled and then divided by the number of pupils sitting the test. The ‘mean’ can be skewed disproportionately by a few items, for instance, I was once part of a small group where the majority were younger than 40; however, the mean average age was over 60 because one member was in her 90’s. A more accurate average for that group would have been a median average. If each age was placed in order from youngest to oldest, the age in the middle would be the median. 
4.2 By definition, in any measurement of averages 50% of schools (or pupils) must be ‘below average’ and 50% ‘above average’. This does not mean that 50% are ‘failing’, for instance, in a test where full marks are 100 and the pass mark is 50, if all entering the test score 60 or above, all have passed, but 50% will still be ‘below average’.
4.3 With regard the use of percentages, in cohorts of relatively small numbers of pupils each pupil could equate to two or more percentage points. This means that a few pupils who do not perform as well as the others could reduce the overall average percentage quite significantly. Alternatively, a few pupils who perform exceptionally well could raise the overall average percentage significantly.
5. A note about national assessment in schools
5.1 Full-time education in English schools is compulsory from the age of 5 to 16. It begins with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – Reception class – and is followed by four ‘Key Stages’: Key Stage 1 –Years 1 and 2; Key Stage 2 – Years 3-6; Key Stage 3 – Years 7-9 (Senior) and Key Stage 4 – Years 10-11 (Senior, GCSE years). The National Curriculum starts at year 1 and that is when national assessments also begin. In Year 1 there is a nationally administered test of phonics. At the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 are ‘Statutory Attainment Tests’ (SATs). Progress and attainment at EYFS and the end of Key Stage 1 are measured by teachers according to national criteria. 
5.2 There are four items to the Key Stage 2 SATs – Reading, Writing, Maths and English Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (EGPS). All apart from writing are administered via paper tests where the answers are largely right or wrong. These papers are sent away to be marked. Writing is assessed over the course of year 6 by teachers following national guidelines and criteria and here there is more emphasis on value judgement. This is why, in the data to be considered later in this paper, progress ‘scores’ for writing do not exist.
5.3 All the above assessments measure pupils’ attainment, i.e. what they have achieved in relation to national standards set by the government within the National Curriculum. The scores given by these assessments are used to measure the progress of pupils, dealt with in the next section.
6. Measuring progress
In December 2019, the Department for Education published the guidance Primary school accountability in 2019: A technical guide for primary maintained schools, academies and free schools (Crown Publications Reference DfE-00172-2019). It is actually more accessible than it sounds and the following paragraphs are taken from it to provide a platform for the discussion of Ashley’s data. 
Page 7: The progress measures aim to capture the progress that pupils make from the end of Key Stage 1 to the end of primary school. They are a type of value-added measure, which means that pupils’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils nationally with similar prior attainment. 
Page 12: To calculate progress scores, pupils are allocated into prior attainment groupings with all other pupils nationally with similar Key Stage 1 attainment. In 2019, pupils’ prior attainment was based on their teacher assessments at the end of Key Stage 1. These assessments took place in 2015 and were reported in national curriculum levels. Individual Key Stage 1 subject teacher assessments were converted into points… A pupil’s Key Stage 1 point scores for English reading, English writing and mathematics is then combined to give them a Key Stage 1 average point score (APS). 
Page 15: The process described above created 24 prior attainment groups to which pupils have been allocated depending on their Key Stage 1 results… A pupil’s progress score is the difference between their own Key Stage 2 result and the national average Key Stage 2 result for their prior attainment group. 
Page 17: For English reading and mathematics, Key Stage 2 test results have been reported as scaled scores, with 100 as the ‘expected standard’. The scaled score for each subject is used as the pupil’s Key Stage 2 outcome in the progress score calculation. 
7. Interpreting a school’s progress scores 
Page 20: Individual pupil-level progress scores are calculated in comparison to other pupils nationally. For all mainstream pupils nationally, the average progress score will be zero. 
A school’s progress scores for English reading, English writing and mathematics are calculated as its pupils’ average progress scores. This means that school-level progress scores is presented as positive and negative numbers either side of zero. 
• A score of zero means pupils in this school, on average, do about as well at Key Stage 2 as those with similar prior attainment nationally. 
• A positive score means pupils in this school, on average, do better at Key Stage 2 than those with similar prior attainment nationally. 
• A negative score means pupils in this school, on average, do not make as much progress by the end of Key Stage 2 as those with similar prior attainment nationally. A negative score does not mean that pupils did not make any progress between Key Stages 1 and 2. A negative score means that they made less progress than other pupils nationally with similar prior attainment. 
Page 21: Schools should not share individual pupil progress scores with pupils or parents. 
8. To summarise
Key factors in interpreting the data from Year 6 SATS include:
  • Taking note of the progress made by pupils and not just their attainment
  • Trends over three years or more – one year’s results taken by themselves are insufficient to bring a judgement about a school’s overall performance
  • Taking note of ‘value added’ – how much progress pupils made over and above what would be expected, all other things being equal
9. Data for 2019: How does Ashley compare with other schools in the Good Shepherd Trust (GST)?
The following statistics were published in October 2019 and relate to the academic year 2018-19. [Source: The Good Shepherd Trust website]
9.1 EYFS: 84% of Ashley pupils achieved expected standards (known as ‘Good Level of Development’ (GLD)). This ranked Ashley 2nd out of 14 GST schools. The national average was 72%.
9.2 Year 1 Phonics: 91% of Ashley pupils passed, ranking the school as joint 1st out of 14 GST schools. The national average was 82%.
9.3 Pupils achieving expected standards at the end of Key Stage 1:
In reading, 90% of Ashley pupils achieved expected standards; in writing, 84%; and in maths, 87%. In all three the school ranked 1st out of 14 GST schools. All areas were well above the national average.
9.4 Pupils exceeding expected standards at the end of Key Stage 1:
In reading, 49% of Ashley pupils exceeded expected standards; in writing, 23% and in maths, 41%, ranking Ashley as 1st out of 14 GST schools in reading and maths and joint 3rd in writing.
9.5 Progress at the end of Key Stage 2:
In reading, the average scaled progress score for Ashley pupils was -0.6, placing Ashley 9th out of 12 GST schools (range of progress scores: +6.4 to -3.2). 
In writing, the average scaled progress score for Ashley pupils was -2.0, placing Ashley 8th out of 12 GST schools (range of progress scores: +3.7 to -4.3). 
In maths, the average scaled progress score for Ashley pupils was -0.3, placing Ashley 9th out of 12 GST schools (range of progress scores: +5.6 to -2.3). 
9.6 Pupils reaching expected standards in Reading, Writing and Maths combined:
68% of Ashley pupils reached expected standards in all three subjects, placing the school 7th out of 12 GST schools (range of percentages was 83 to 56). The national average was 65%.
10. Data over time
Summary of data aggregated from the websites of Ashley School (including the school online prospectus), The Good Shepherd Trust and the government's Find and compare schools in England:
10.1 Key Stage 1
Percentage of pupils working at or exceeding expected standards (i.e. measures of attainment)

With the exception of writing, the data show a consistency of high standards over the four-year period. Each of these subjects in each of these years is significantly higher than national averages and (where the data is available) local authority averages.
The drop in reading between 2017 and 2018 is mirrored by a similar drop in writing; however, the drop in reading is redressed the following year. This is not the case in writing and it would be important to ascertain the reason for this drop in writing. One very possible reason is that teachers became more accurate in their assessment of children’s writing during the year 2017-2018.
10.2 Key Stage 2
Percentage of pupils working at or exceeding expected standards (i.e. measures of attainment)

Reading, writing and maths
Three year average for achieving expected standards in all three areas: 76% (local authority average: 69%; National average: 63%)
With three exceptions, each of these areas in each of these years is higher than national averages and (where the data is available) local authority averages. In 2018 all three subjects were almost 20 percentage points higher than the national average.
Two of exceptions relate to writing: in 2017, the school’s score was slightly below the local authority average and the national average, and in 2019, the school’s score was almost exactly the same as the national average of 78%. The third exception was 2019, when the school fell two percentage points below the local authority average for achieving expected standards in all three subjects; nevertheless, it continued to be above the national average.
There is no obvious indication here of consistently falling standards. Indeed, in maths the scores for 2018 and 2019 are higher than for the previous two years. The pupil cohort of 2018 scored exceptionally well and, therefore, a decline from that high point would not be unexpected.
10.3 Summary of SATs data taken from the government website 
Measures of progress (progress scores). The progress description given in brackets relates to a comparison between the school’s scores and the national average.

2.8 (above average)
3.5 (well above average)
-0.6 (average)
-1.6 (average)
-0.2 (average)
-2.0 (below average)
0.6 (average)
0.5 (average)
-0.3 (average)
When compared to national averages, over the past three years pupils have maintained a steady position in maths (average progress). For two years, reading was above or well above average, but dipped to being average in 2019. Writing has also dipped in 2019 and was then below average for the first time.
10.4 Average SATs scores compared with those for the local authority (given in brackets)
NB There is no score for writing as this is measured via teacher assessment

109 (106)
112 (107)
106 (106)
107 (105)
108 (105)
107 (106)
Achievement in reading and maths in each of the three years has been higher than the average for the local authority, except for 2019, when reading was the same as the local authority.

11 Results by pupil characteristics
Schools need to report on the attainment and progress of pupils not only as overall year groups, but also by specific background factors termed ‘Pupil Characteristics’):
  • girls and boys
  • pupils who are disadvantaged (defined as those who are either currently in receipt of free school meals or have been in any of the previous six years or those who are being looked after by the local authority)
  • those who have been identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) and are in receipt of SEN Support or who are in possession of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • those for whom English is an additional language (EAL).
Individual pupils may well appear in more than two categories, for instance a pupil for whom English is an additional language who is also identified as having SEND and is in receipt of free school meals will be measured and summated in each one of the categories of ‘Pupil Characteristics’. This, however, will not be distinguished in the publicly available data.
Schools will be monitoring the progress of pupils in each of these groups and will be putting in support mechanisms where appropriate. The effectiveness of any such support will also be being monitored. Any findings from SATs results will be used to inform the monitoring of younger year groups.
To keep the data as simple and clear as possible, I have deliberately not made reference to the characteristics of pupils which may nor may not affect the average results of any one cohort. However, as there is a concern over writing progress in Key Stage 2 it is important to point out the following (sourced from Ashley’s website):
In Year 6 (2018-19) there were 59 pupils, of which 24 were girls and 35 were boys. The balance of boys to girls in this cohort was thus higher than in the school as a whole, which has affected the overall results. Progress in reading and writing for girls was significantly higher than that of boys, whereas boys’ progress in maths was higher than that of girls. 83% of girls met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. 57% of boys met those same standards. The most significant difference came in writing. There is, therefore, need to examine boys’ writing.
In that cohort, 10% were pupils with EAL. Overall the progress of this group in reading and writing was well below the cohort average, but in maths it was in line with expectations and above the cohort average. There is, therefore, a need to examine the support given to pupils in all aspects of literacy for whom English is not their first language.
It is in this context that the difference between ‘mean average’ and ‘median average’ becomes significant. All the figures in the data relate to ‘mean’ averages. The results may have been quite different if they were calculated using the ‘median’ average. However, as all schools use the mean average, comparison with other schools remain valid.
NB The Good Shepherd Trust website only provides performance data for 2019. It has not therefore been possible to compare Ashley’s data over time with that of other schools in the trust.
12. Has Ashley’s performance slipped considerably since 2016?
The short answer is that the statistics do not indicate this to be the case. This is especially so for EYFS and Key Stage 1 where results have been consistently high over the previous four years. It is, however, clearly the case that SATs results for 2019 were disappointing, and that writing (particularly EAL and boys’ writing) needs to be improved. However, the year before was particularly strong. There is therefore no trend indicating a drop in the overall performance of the school.
Improvements can always be made. No school is perfect. Whilst trends over three years or more give a clearer indication of a school’s performance than any one year group’s results, where a particular cohort falls down an investigation needs to be mounted to find out why this was the case so that issues can be identified and responded to. 
It could also be argued that, given the many advantages enjoyed by the school, Ashley should be consistently ‘above average’ in every area when compared with national data and possibly local authority data as well. The data could indicate that writing generally in Key Stage 2 does not make the progress that would be expected, given the strength of writing at the end of Key Stage 1. This is an issue nationally. Statistically, it is very hard for a school to make more than expected progress in years 3-6 when the starting point is so high. 
Whilst no overall conclusion can be drawn about the performance of the school over time, the sustained high standards of Key Stage 1 need to be acknowledged and celebrated, and questions need to be asked about why the 2019 cohort did not make the same progress as those in previous years.
13 An addendum
The day after completing the above paper I received a copy of Richard Dunne’s statement in response to the Local Governing Committee’s message regarding falling standards at Ashley. Alongside the fact that the data discussed above agrees absolutely with Mr Dunne’s comments, I wish to emphasise three points:
  1. The school was clearly very aware of the needs within the year 6 of 2018-2019 and were putting support mechanisms in place. My final comment regarding questions needing to be asked has therefore been answered.
  2. The information Mr Dunne cites regarding teacher predictions of expected results and the results actually achieved is crucial in understanding the 2019 SATs results. However, the predictions of teachers are not in the public domain and therefore did not form part of my analysis. 
  3. Also not in the public domain was the level of SEND in that cohort of pupils nor the disruption brought to the school by the redeployment of senior leaders. Neither of these factors were therefore included in my paper, but they are similarly crucial in coming to an appreciation of the school’s performance. 
Finally, I repeat what is written above, and which Mr Dunne very importantly refers to as well: ‘Statistically, it is very hard for a school to make more than expected progress in years 3-6 when the starting point is so high’."


My profound thanks to Dr Hutchins for the work he has done in putting his report together. If anyone wishes to add to or correct anything they read above, please send me a message on the secure contact form which you can find over here on the right hand nav bar: --------------------->
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Richard Dunne: "The Trust has a lot to answer for"

At the end of the Autumn term 2019, the chair of the board of Ashley's governors, Nigel Stapleton, sent round a circular. In it, he said:

"The 2019 Key Stage 2 results for the school, as predicted by the SLT and LGC were disappointing and outcomes for the pupils from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 were not as expected. In response to this, in October, the GST Board served the school with a ‘Notice to Improve’."

[the SLT is the school's Senior Leadership Team, the LGC is the Local Governance Committee, aka the governors and the GST is the Good Shepherd Trust]

On 15 Dec, the GST's chair stated: "the performance at Ashley has slipped considerably (since 2016) so as to be a long way below that of our higher performing schools (the relevant data for 2019 is on our website)." [read the data here]

On 1 January 2020, Richard Dunne asked the A4T group to pass on his response to Mr Stapleton's circular. It was sent out in an email to those who subscribe to the A4T email. I have copied and pasted it (with permission) below in full:

"Dear Parents and Carers,

Below is a response to the data provided by the GST at the end of last term, including their criticisms of Ashley School’s data, which does not take into account a number of factors such as the range of learning and behavioural needs in each cohort of children.

Starting at the beginning, the school’s Early Years GLD (Good Level of Development) data for last summer placed the school 2nd in the Trust with 84% achieving GLD. As everyone knows, some children will not achieve GLD for a number of reasons, so it is important to be cautious about putting too much of an emphasis on this data, particularly as the children are still only 4 and 5 years old.

The Year 1 phonics data put the school 1st in the Trust with 91% passing this screening test. The teachers did a great job working so well with the children to achieve such high levels of success. Once again, if a child does not achieve the pass mark, there will be particular reasons for this, and they will continue to get good support in Year 2 to ensure they achieve the pass mark at the end of Year 2.

The Year 2 SATs results last summer placed the school 1st in Reading, 1st in Writing and 1st in Maths at expected levels of attainment. The greater depth attainment was also very strong with the school coming 1st in Reading and Maths. The results in Writing put the school 3rd.

This is great news, but it does create a challenge for the school because it means that even if the children do incredibly well in Year 6, their progress will not be as strong as those schools performing at a lower level in Year 2 as they cannot make so much progress. In simple terms, if the top mark in Year 6 is 10 and they score 6 in Year 2, they will not make as much progress as those who score 3 or 4 or 5 in Year 2. Ashley School has had this challenge for years. Even in 2018, when the Year 6 children’s results were in the top 10% nationally and the best in the GST across the board, the progress data was only just above average.

The school knew that last year’s Year 6 cohort had a higher than usual level of need, both from a learning perspective and in terms of behaviour. This happens sometimes. Not only was the number of SEND children higher than usual, but it was an extremely unusual cohort in terms of child carers, i.e. children who have to support a parent or sibling with needs, as the percentage was particularly high. This can have a significant impact on their learning in school. There were also several children who arrived in the school post Year 2 (around 15%) and a good number had high levels of learning needs, i.e. they came to the school at a very low level of attainment and this put a lot of pressure on the school to push them to achieve at the expected level.

The school set very realistic targets for these children and shared these targets with both the Governors and the Trust. The school wanted everyone to be clear that the results would not be as strong as the previous year, but that was understandable, bearing in mind the needs outlined above. Here are the predictions and the actual results. As you can see, the school actually surpassed their predictions in Writing and Maths, but the results were a little down in Reading, possibly because the Year 6 teachers understandably had put slightly more of an emphasis on Writing and Maths. Reading is usually the school’s strongest subject.

Year 6 Key Stage 2 Predictions and Results for 2019

Expected Level of Attainment

Reading Prediction 86%                    Reading Result 80%
Writing Prediction 71%                      Writing Result 76%
Maths Prediction 83%                        Maths Result 88%

Greater Depth Higher Level Attainment

Reading Prediction 40%                    Reading Result 33%
Writing Prediction 25%                      Writing Result 27%
Maths Prediction 27%                        Maths Result 32%

For information, the Year 6’s Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling score of 90% was the 2nd best in the Trust. The school’s view is that this cohort did very well, bearing in mind its starting points and the very low levels of attainment of a good number of children, who came to the school late and whose data had a very negative impact on the progress data.

The Trust was very aware of this high level of need in Year 6 and it was pointed out to the Governors in every one of their termly meetings. Last September, however, the Trust still went ahead and took out Mrs Stevens, who was the Teaching and Learning Lead at Ashley School. As parents and carers know, she was taken out for 50% of the time in the Autumn Term and 100% of the time in the Spring and Summer Terms. I was also asked to support another GST school throughout the year. This was extremely unhelpful, bearing in mind the needs of the cohort.

I hope this information gives a more balanced view of the school’s data. Importantly, if the school’s leadership is undermined as it was last year, it makes performing well more of a challenge. Having said that, the data overall for 2018-19 was strong across the school. It is not all about data anyway as Ofsted is making very clear in its new inspection framework. Schools are being judged much more now on the richness of their curriculum, something that is a real strength of the school.

It is the greatest irony that the school is being given much more support this year.  This was something I highlighted repeatedly last year, but no action was taken to address this concern.

It is interesting to compare the difference between the leadership team this January and last. Last January the school had a Headteacher, an Assistant Head and a part-time Trust Business Manager. This January there will be a Headteacher, a part-time Deputy Head three days a week, two Assistant Heads, an Office Manager and a part-time Trust Business Manager. That is more than double the leadership resources. If the school had not been stripped of its senior resources last year, the results are likely to have been even stronger. In my honest opinion, the Trust has a lot to answer for.


Richard Dunne"

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30 December 2019

An open letter to the GST and Ashley's governors

Ashley school gates. And some bins.
This letter was sent yesterday as an email to the Good Shepherd Trust and Ashley School's Local Governing Committee (the LGC aka the governors). I will obviously publish any response.

"Hi all

I hope you are well and enjoying the Christmas period.

I am writing this as an open letter, and I would be grateful for a timely response for publication.

I am an Ashley parent and journalist. I have put together a website detailing what has been happening at Ashley School over the last few months. Please do have a look: https://www.educationaccountability.org/p/start-here.html 

One of the most frustrating things about this whole process has been not knowing the allegations the GST made against Richard Dunne.

Obviously I have asked Mr Dunne to share this information, but so far he hasn’t. I suspect this is on the advice of his lawyers - who I presume are preparing some sort of legal action against the GST. 

I suggest that if you want to win over the parents who seem to have lost confidence in the GST/LGC, you publish what you had on Richard Dunne and the findings of any investigation that was carried out. I think in the past you have implied this can’t be done out of a duty of confidentiality to Mr Dunne. Why not ask him if he minds? He’s already said he rejects the allegations and has nothing to hide. 

Publishing hard information is a more effective way of winning people over than the rather insidious nudge-nudge campaign that appears to be going on at the moment.

If the best the GST have is that unsigned declaration of interest form which Mr Stapleton kindly pointed us towards in his end of term circular, I can understand why you might prefer to keep the rest confidential. 

If the other charges are stronger than the alleged catering racket, it would be really helpful if the parents could see them. Then we can all move on to the next stage.

Trusting the GST/LGC

Aside from the facts of the allegations themselves, a key concern is that in his resignation letter to parents, staff and children, Richard Dunne said he had resigned partly because he thought he would not get a fair hearing. This is worrying as it suggests he had lost faith in the GST as an employer, which in turn suggests his relationship with the GST/LGC had deteriorated considerably before he was presented with this mystery list of allegations and sent home.

I personally don’t feel inclined to trust the GST/LGC, partly because you have to question the competence of an organisation which manages to lose a much-loved head teacher, but also because whichever way you look at it, the initial statement that Mr Dunne was absent from school for reasons personal to him was misleading, at best.

The campaign you appear to be running at the moment - sending emails alleging the school has gone downhill over the last three years and alluding to the idea that Mr Dunne couldn’t really cope with the expansion to three form entry - seems to suggest you are quite glad to see the back of him.

It begs the question - have you been wanting him out for some time? Did you, perhaps, cook up a bunch of allegations with a view to getting rid of Mr Dunne?

I hope not.

Your perceived lack of respect for concerned parents

I would be grateful for some kind of rationale for the contempt you appear to hold for parents who have concerns about the LGC and GST.

On the evening of the 25 November, 340 parents, ex-parents and members of Ashley School staff attended a meeting at Esher RFC. A further 100 or so hands went up when I asked who had a partner who would also have attended were it not for childcare or work commitments.

At the end of that meeting we took one vote, and the vote was to approach the GST/LGC to discuss the possibility of setting up a parent council.

Two days later Ashley parent Andy Stocks sent a respectful email to the LGC asking how this might be explored. The eventual reply was dismissive: "We started work on the Parent partnership well before the parent meeting to which you refer in your e mail. Ours is an initiative being led by the senior leadership - as should be the case - with strong encouragement from the LGB. So it does, therefore, supersede what was discussed at the Esher Rugby Club meeting.”

This follows a pattern of governors belittling Ashley parents who have what they feel are legitimate concerns about the departure of Mr Dunne and the handling thereof by the LGC and the GST.

For example, take a look at the Chairman’s opening remarks in the LGC meeting on 21 Nov:

"The staff and the LGC observed that the social media activity and unhelpful behaviour and language was clearly restricted to a minority of current parents, who had been joined by some parents who no longer had children at the school.”

These comment attempts to paint the large number of parents with legitimate concerns as a few wingnuts bolstered by ex-parents who have no business getting involved.

The next sentence in the minutes I have already raised with Mr Stapleton because it is just weird:

"They [the staff and LGC] were pleased to have received so many supportive messages from other parents many of whom appear to have perceived, far better than some others, the reasons that are behind Mr Dunne’s resignation and which, for legal reasons, the GST are unable to disclose even to members of the LGC.”

This suggests that clever, perceptive parents have already worked out (somehow?) why Mr Dunne was absent and, having managed to perceive those reasons (which they presumably could not possibly know), had wholeheartedly swung behind the GST/LGC.

You can belittle and patronise as much as you like. You can try to pretend this is all on Mr Dunne for “choosing to resign". But it’s not a very good strategy, and I would advise a change of tack.

Independent inquiry

I would suggest commissioning someone authoritative and independent to look at how you managed to lose Mr Dunne, beginning with asking who was tasked to gather up the allegations against him, by whom and why. Allow that independent person to take statements from everyone at the trust, everyone on the LGC, every member of staff who wishes to contribute, Richard Dunne (and his family) and the Ashley parents and ex-parents and ex-pupils who wish to contribute. And then publish the investigation and its conclusions. Given what we heard from some speakers on 25 November about the attitude towards and treatment of Mr Dunne by certain LGC members, this needs to be properly and independently examined from all angles. 

We know the GST/LGC has all the power in the parent/school dynamic. We know you do not have to acknowledge our concerns, explain your actions or take us into account in anything you do. However I would suggest if you want to deal with this properly:

- don’t send oblique emails or circulars smearing or belittling Mr Dunne and his abilities.
- don’t try to dismiss the 309 people who signed the letter to the GST or the 340 people who turned up on a cold Monday night to Esher Rugby club to give a broken man two standing ovations.
- get Mr Dunne’s agreement to publish the allegations against him. He has lawyers now - get yours to talk to them and get an agreed statement out.
- ask someone independent to investigate and report on the GST/LGC's handling of the situation going back to whenever the first evidence-gathering exercise against Mr Dunne was discussed and commissioned.

I look forward to receiving your response, for publication, and I look forward to finding out more about the Ashley Parent Partnership next term.

Kind regards and the very best for 2020.

Nick Wallis"

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27 December 2019

Richard Dunne's fighting fund passes £20,000

Over Christmas Richard Dunne's fighting fund appeal reached and passed the £20,000 mark. It has been running exactly a month, raising an average of £672 a day. Whichever way you look at it, that is a phenomenal achievement.

To mark this, I thought it would be nice to re-publish a selection of the comments left by donors:

"Mr Dunne helped provide me with the best start in life, so I want to give back to him to help clear his professional reputation. Thank you, Mr Dunne." - Ian Volkov, 25 Dec

"Keep fighting Richard. You are hands down the very best headteacher I ever worked with." - Rachel Turner, 30 Nov 

"I was a newly qualified teacher when I first joined Ashley and I learnt so much from working there for 9 years under Richard’s warm leadership. Whilst at the school, I grew in so many ways and it has shaped me as a teacher. I still teach by the same core Ashley values. It deeply saddens me that it has come to this. Your last day at Ashley should have been a really happy occasion with lots of pupils, parents and staff (past and present) showing their appreciation for everything you have done for the school. Not like this... Sending you and your lovely family support from Tokyo. Kaori x" - Kaori Ota 25 Dec

"Ashley school has been a huge part of my life that has given me so many great memories as a pupil and more recently as a member of staff and that is all thanks to Richard Dunne." - Dylan Crawford, 30 Nov

"You are an incredible man and this is so wrong." Damian and Ali, 24 Dec

"Richard, through your inspiration, vision and the nurturing environment of Ashley school you provided a place for my daughters to flourish. Instilling in them a set of values and principles that will last a lifetime. Good luck to you and your family and thank you from mine, Lee, Zeala, Cicely & Lydia." - Lee Day, 24 Dec

"Thanks for everything you've done for Ashley... you created a truly special place." Steve and Jo Riding, 17 Dec

"I feel so fortunate to have taught under your leadership and have learnt so much from you. I feel very sad that my daughter won’t get to hear a Mr Dunne assembly should she possibly go to Ashley when she starts school :-( But your passion for the harmony project, sustainability and your utter belief that little people can change the world has had such an impact on so many children, staff and parents and I’ve no doubt that will continue in whatever is next for you! Lots of love to you, Charlotte and family. Love Katharine, James and Amelie x" - Katharine Scott, 14 Dec

"I’m absolutely appalled at the treatment of such a successful, inspirational and caring Head teacher. I have 4 grandchildren, past and present, at Ashley who are all thriving thanks to the great leadership of Mr Dunne. Good luck for the future." - Linda Meek, 7 Dec

"Richard, you have built such an amazing and special school and have been such an inspiration to so many children, staff and parents. We are so saddened by the way in which you and your family have been treated by an organisation that seems to have forgotten the core principle on which it is supposed to be based and we are fully behind you. We and the rest of the Ashley community will keep on doing all that we can to help you achieve what is just and right. With love, Marcus, Issy and Aiden" - Marcus Kelly, 7 Dec

"It's shocking that you are in this position Richard, after you have given your all to Ashley. Please be assured of our support and gratitude for being such an inspirational head teacher. Good luck in fighting this injustice! Sarah & Cara Anthony xx" - Sarah Anthony, 5 Dec

"I have been a Supply teacher occasionally at your school. You were an excellent Head Teacher who inspired others. I'm very sad to hear what has happened. Inexcusable." - Judith Snell, 4 Dec

"Hi Richard, my nephew goes to your school and I know even from afar what a wonderful job you have done there! As a barrister, I know how strenuous proceedings can be for people, but also how worthwhile. Don't stop fighting the good fight!" - Gemma Kelly, 3 Dec

"Richard, we are heart broken that you and your family are being put through this. You gave our kids the very best start in life and for that we will always be most grateful. You will always have our love, respect and support xx" - Sarah Adam, 3 Dec

"So sorry it’s all come to this! We miss you at school and are so grateful for the wonderful impact you’ve already had on Ben and Ed school lives." Libby & Andy Wybrow, 2 Dec

"Thanks for all you've done for Ashley School. You have our unwavering respect and support." - Melissa Christopher, 30 Nov

"Our whole family is standing by you Mr Dunne. You are the most exceptional leader and we feel so blessed to have had you in our lives bringing up our children during these important, informative primary years. Richard Dunne has unique strengths, the ability to reach, inspire and motivate our whole community - children, parents and staff alike. He brings meaning to everything the children learn and experience. We are in admiration that he leads by example with a curriculum involving Harmony. He has quite an extraordinary impact, encouraging the very best for our children - for them to become independent thinkers and for that we are truly grateful. This situation should never have come to this and we will do all that we can to help." Clare, Jeremy, George & Jamie Long, 30 Nov

If you want to read all the comments they are on the crowdfunding website here.

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