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Head leaves after a term at first private/state school academy merger

The head of a controversial new academy, formed by the country’s first merger of a private school with a state primary, has left after just one term.

David Dawes has stepped down as principal of Kings Priory School in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, owing to a “difference of personal vision” with Woodard Academies Trust, the chain that runs the school.

The departure of the head in the middle of the school year comes after major opposition to the opening of the school from North Tyneside council, which feared that it would draw too many pupils away from existing schools.

There was also concern over education secretary Michael Gove's decision to pay off £5 million debts of the private predecessor school – The King’s School, which had been suffering falling pupil numbers prior to the merger with the state-run Priory Primary.

A statement from Woodard Academies Trust said: “Owing to a difference of personal vision with the trust over key aspects of the school’s future leadership and direction, Mr Dawes offered to step down from his post at the end of December 2013, which was accepted by the trust.

"In the circumstances it was agreed by both parties that it would be in the best interests of the school for this to be with immediate effect.”

The statement quoted Mr Dawes, a Cambridge graduate and former army captain, saying: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the pupils, parents, colleagues, academy councillors and other members of the local community and felt privileged to guide Kings Priory School to opening.

“I would like to thank everyone who supported me and I wish the school and Woodard Academies Trust all the very best in the future”

The trust said the academy will be led by Sue Melbourne, the current head of the primary and middle school sections and Gill Hewlett, the current head of the senior school.

A spokeswoman for the trust said that it had not yet started looking for a new principal, but would do so in the spring.

The loss of the headteacher at King’s Priory comes following a string of high-profile departures at new schools, in particular free schools.

Annaliese Briggs left the helm of Pimlico Primary School in London just weeks after it opened in September last year to “pursue other opportunities in primary education”.

She was appointed as its head in the April prior to the opening while studying for her PGCE.

Sherry Zand left her role as head of IES Breckland Free School in Suffolk last autumn, only a year after it opened in 2012.

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