Disappeared: the headteachers sacked and gagged by academy trusts

The Guardian reports that school leaders who don’t show rapid improvement in results are being ruthlessly dismissed – and silenced. Some say it’s because they refused to cheat. Here five tell of their devastation.

‘It was like a bomb had dropped on me. I was shocked, numb,” says James Wiggins, a former headteacher, recalling the day, two years ago, when his academy trust chief came in out of the blue and ordered him to clear his office. “He said the governing body had had a vote of no confidence in me – which I later found out was a lie – and that I needed to leave and couldn’t make contact with anybody.”

Wiggins was asked to discuss immediately “without prejudice” how his sacking would be managed. “I said: ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ and I went straight to my union,” he says. The same day he walked out of his school for the last time: “It felt like a public shaming.”

Wiggins, who had been in teaching for two decades, is one of the “disappeared” – a growing number of headteachers who are summarily sacked or forced to “resign”, and who cannot talk openly about the brutality of their treatment because of gagging clauses they are compelled to sign as part of their settlements. Five former heads have spoken to the Guardian on condition of anonymity: they risk their references and financial package should their identities become known.

Wiggins’ academy trust had told him the expectation was to achieve “outstanding” in his primary school’s first Ofsted. From the off, he said, “I made it clear [with the intake we had] that this wasn’t going to happen.” But within days of the Sats scores being published – with results that he’d predicted – he was out. “I’d been through Ofsted a few times before and got good and outstanding, so there wasn’t a leadership problem,” he says. “I just don’t think they liked what I said.”

To the heads involved, it can be professionally destructive and personally annihilating. “For some it is utterly life changing – they are broken people,” says Geoff Barton, a former head himself and now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “They won’t go out of their house, because they feel branded a failure.”

Some heads say they fell out of favour because they had refused to behave in a way they believed unethical. Eric Warren, former head of a primary school whose results had been improving year on year, is convinced he was ousted because he wouldn’t cook the books to improve faster. “The trust wanted me to get rid of certain children who were dragging the level down, and I said I wasn’t prepared to do that. We had a high proportion of children with English as a second language,” he says.

Read the full article Disappeared: the headteachers sacked and gagged by academy trusts

Are you or do you know of a sacked and gagged headteacher? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Anonymous

    If the academy trust I know of is typical it’s part of a strategy to remove heads in order to appoint members of the CEO’s crony club.

    • Well, MATs are really only about making money. What’s going on is appalling – destructive of education and harmful to the children. Sadly a lot of headteachers were gullible enthusiasts when they dumbly believed government propaganda about more ‘freedom’ – sometimes mostly for themselves. Too dim to read up and realise the bribe was only temporary and ridiculously idiotic to suppose they would not be getting the treatment they signed up for.

  2. wasateacher

    Perhaps those heads who are so keen to turn their schools into academies believing it will give them freedoms will realise that it might be more likely to give them the sack!

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