One school, three heads

tis  Harrogate High School.  110608M2e.
tis Harrogate High School. 110608M2e.

A SCHOOL branded failing by the Government had three people in headteacher roles at one time, the Advertiser has discovered.

The appointments were part of a £700,000 deal with Outwood Grange in Wakefield, which was brought in to help when Harrogate High School was put on the National Challenge register in 2007.

As well as headteacher Vincent McNicholas, who was on sick leave for long periods between 2006 and 2008, Paul Tarn covered the headship from April 2007 to August 2009 and Michael Wilkins was executive headteacher for the same period.

A fourth employee, deputy headteacher Mark Broxham, also provided cover for the headteacher during his sick leave.

Although Mr McNicholas’s £80,000 salary was paid by North Yorkshire County Council, the work of the other two leaders was funded from the money given to Outwood Grange. Giving details of the arrangements, a county council spokesman said having a headteacher and an executive was “a model used in federations and multi-school partnerships”.

The information emerged this week following revelations about the amount of money given to Outwood Grange, as well as to a consultancy group set up by the academy, for support to five struggling schools. Of the £3.2m total, £700,000 was given for work at Harrogate High School – £231,000 from the school itself for a package including covering staff posts, £54,000 from the Government and the remaining £400,000 from the county council.

The council spokesman said: “The contract was monitored closely by the authority. Outwood Grange delivered what they said they would, and Harrogate High School made a lot of progress.”

Mr Wilkins was a National Leader in Education, but questions have been asked about why Outwood Grange was brought in to help at Harrogate High when there were several other schools within the town – under the same local authority – recording better results in league tables at the time.

The council spokesman said: “It is essential to put Outwood Grange’s involvement at Harrogate High School in context. In 2006/07 the school had significant problems and required extensive help. In the first instance the authority used a successful headteacher from another North Yorkshire school in the area combined with support from our own staff.

“More progress and pace were needed, however, in the pupils’ interests and to meet central government’s expectations of fast improvement. It must be remembered that Harrogate High was one of four North Yorkshire secondary schools which came to be covered by central government’s National Challenge. Without major improvement in performance within a three year period it would have faced closure.

“The school required sustained and extensive support. It was more than local schools were in a position to provide, and more than the local authority could supply at that point.”

Harrogate High School is currently consulting on the possibility of joining the Outwood Grange as part of an academy, referred to as a “family of schools” and including North Doncaster Technology College, now known as Outwood Academy Adwick, which was another of the schools it helped from 2007 onwards.

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