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Exclusive: concerns raised over new Durand boarding head's conduct case

Parent withdraws pupil after high-profile trust hires leader still facing questions over role at previous school

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Parent withdraws pupil after high-profile trust hires leader still facing questions over role at previous school

The embattled Durand Academy Trust has recruited a head of boarding for its controversial rural school who is subject to a professional misconduct hearing, TES can reveal.

The hearing is related to Grant Taylor’s former role at another boarding school, which is subject to allegations of sexual bullying between pupils. His appointment at Durand’s West Sussex boarding school (pictured) has prompted at least one parent to raise concerns and withdraw their child, TES understands.

The news comes as the South London-based trust – already notorious for previously having one of the highest-paid heads in the country – continues a legal battle with the government over governance concerns that could result in its funding being withdrawn.

Doubts over financial viability

Durand Boarding School in West Sussex, England’s first free boarding school, has previously faced planning battles and doubts over its financial viability. Companies House records show that its previous head of boarding, Hakim Taylor, left on 12 September.

His replacement, Grant Taylor, who shares a surname but is no relation, taught at another boarding school mired in controversy – Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey, Hampshire – up until its closure in 2014.

Stanbridge Earls, for pupils with special educational needs, had been subject to a string of allegations of sexual abuse and bullying between pupils, including allegations of rape. A report published last October by Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board found that girls at the school were not "adequately protected".

Mr Taylor worked at Stanbridge Earls at a time when serious instances identified by the report took place.

The report quoted NSPCC documents stating: "From the papers that we have, we believe that teachers in the school may have failed to take action in relation to sexual abuse [by pupils]."

In a separate but well-reported incident in 2013, pupils were taken to an outdoor pursuit centre in Scotland where they abseiled naked.

Ongoing investigation

Mr Taylor, along with the former headmaster and deputy headmaster of Stanbridge Earls, faced a three-day preliminary professional conduct hearing held on 8, 9 and 12 September by the National College for Teaching and Leadership. The subject of the hearing is not known.

It is understood that he was not subject to any police investigations himself, and TES has not seen any evidence to suggest that Mr Taylor was personally involved in the events identified by the NSPCC or the Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board reports, or in the events at the outdoor pursuit centre.

His roles at Stanbridge Earls included head of sport and house master, until he was appointed deputy head after the headteacher stepped down in 2013.

Grant Taylor declined to respond to TES’ queries, as did Durand Academy Trust’s acting executive headteacher, Mark McLaughlin. Sir Greg also declined to respond.

This is an edited article from the 23 September edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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