Bishop changes his flocks

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
Peter Hullah leaves prestigious private school behind to run new academy. Graeme Paton reports

Peter Hullah, ordained minister and headteacher, has a distinguished CV. In a career spanning three decades, he has taught at some of the most successful private schools in the country and spent six years as a bishop in the south of England. But now the Rt Revd Hullah has ditched the pomp and ceremony of both independent education and the Church of England to take up a new post as head of an urban comprehensive.

He is one of two former members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses'

Conference, which represents 240 of the most prestigious private schools in the country, to be confirmed this term as leaders of Tony Blair's controversial academy schools.

Bishop Hullah, former head of Chetham's school of music, Manchester, and Fiona Cordeaux, from St Dunstan's college in south London, are the first independent school heads to be attracted to the maintained sector to run academies, independent state schools, sponsored by private finance.

The appointments come with increasing evidence that the high-profile academies are being forced to extreme lengths to find the best heads.

Veredus, the executive headhunters, have been brought in by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which is developing the programme on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills, to find leaders for the next generation of schools.

An analysis by the TES shows that 30 headteachers have led the first 17 academies which have opened so far. In nine cases the same head in charge on day one still leads the school, although two other academies are now on their third headteacher.

Private school leaders this week said more of their number are likely to be tempted by the rapidly expanding programme, in which school leaders can earn salaries of pound;100,000-plus and have greater independence than heads of other state schools.

Andrew Boggis, chairman of the HMC, which represents schools such as Eton, Winchester and Harrow, told The TES: "What independent heads love is the freedom to just get on with your job, relatively free of government interference. If academies can genuinely offer that, then there is every possibility that more people from independent schools may find it an attractive proposition to move to the state sector."

Bishop Hullah and Ms Cordeaux were both appointed by the United Learning Trust, a Christian charity, to lead its academies in Northampton and Walthamstow, east London.

Bishop Hullah was ordained as a minister more than 30 years ago and has spent much of his career in private schools. He previously taught at Pounds 23,280-a-year King's school, Canterbury, before being appointed as head at Chetham's, one of the country's top music schools, in 1992 (see box). For the last six years he has been Bishop of Ramsbury, part of the Diocese of Salisbury As bishop of Ramsbury, he was responsible for a large part of the diocese of Salisbury, which covers more than 2,000 square miles and 850,000 people.

Duties included maintaining links to parishes overseas, including a close tie between Salisbury and the Sudan, and leading regular Sunday worship.

The office carried none of the perks associated with some senior positions in the Church, the Bishop is entitled to a house in Salisbury, but he has no personal staff, other than a secretary shared with his two archdeacons.

Bishop Hullah joined Northampton academy, one of 12 ULT schools either open or under development, as principal last month. The new school is set in the town's deprived Lings estate and replaced the coasting Lings upper school, which was criticised by Ofsted for "very poor" attendance and high exclusion rates.

He said: "Academies have the opportunity to be more creative than other state schools in the way they are able to develop children in very challenging and disadvantaged areas.

"It will be a challenge, but I saw this as a chance to not only head an exciting new school but to help shape and develop a community, in time hopefully contributing to the regeneration of east Northampton."

Fiona Cordeaux previously led St Dunstan's college, which charges up to Pounds 10,671-a-year, and lists Michael Grade, the BBC chairman, and Dr David Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham, among its old boys. She was appointed as principal of the ULT's newest academy, Walthamstow, last month.

Ms Cordeaux will prepare the school for its official opening in September this year, when it replaces the existing McEntee comprehensive, where just 16 per cent of pupils gained at least five good GCSEs last summer.

Ms Cordeaux taught at two state schools, Dover grammar and Hasmonean high, a Jewish secondary school in north London, before moving to the private sector.

She said: "I am driven by the belief that all children deserve opportunities to thrive and I think academies can really offer that.

"I was first interested when I heard Kathy August (head of Manchester academy, another ULT school) speak at HMC a couple of years ago. I, and many of my HMC colleagues, were inspired by her vision and I think academies have a real chance to provide outstanding resources and real educational vision in areas where they are most needed."

The Government wants at least 200 academies to open or be under development by 2010. The schools, - free of local council control - are allowed to deviate from the national curriculum and alter national pay rates.

Despite the high salaries on offer, unions say the pressure to deliver instant results has seen increasing numbers of academy heads quit.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Headteachers have felt more vulnerable in recent years, and clearly academy heads are in the front line more than most with the national spotlight shining on them."


Headmasters' Conference 12

Old school to new academy

Chetham's school of music

Founded 1653

Pupils 292 boysgirls (211 board)

Entrance Musical audition

Fees Up to pound;24,444-a-year (state pays all or part depending on parental income)

Facilities Set in medieval buildings. Expert tuition in any musical instrument.

GCSE results 100% five A*-CAlumni Daniel Harding and Grant Llewellyn (conductors), Mike Lindup (Level 42 keyboardist and vocalist), Omar (soul singer), Max Beesley (actor)

Northampton academy (specialist sport enterprise college)

Founded 2004

Pupils 1,350 boysgirls

Entrance Fully comprehensive (entry criteria includes distance from school)

Fees None

Facilities New pound;25m building, with modern IT equipment, all-weather sports pitches and fitness suite

GCSE results 36 per cent five A*-C

Alumni None

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