Downham Academy principal stands down

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The principal of the Downham Market Academy, Jon Ford, has stepped down from his post with immediate effect.

Staff were informed of his decision during a series of meetings with senior officials from the school’s sponsor, the CWA Academies Trust, on Wednesday.

The decision comes after the school was classed as “below average” in provisional GCSE league tables for this year, which are based on new assessment measurements.

Trust chief executive David Pomfret said: “Following a recent visit to the academy by a representative from the Department for Education (DfE) and the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC), Jon informed me of the decision to step down from his post and take a much-needed break.

“In spite of the undoubted commitment, passion and hard work of Jon and his team, results at the academy did not improve during 2015 and 2016, and the need for rapid improvement was further underlined in feedback following the recent DfE / RSC visit.

“It is to his credit and a testament to his commitment to the academy that Jon decided it was time for someone else to take up the challenge of leading the academy on its improvement journey.

“Throughout this time, he has been totally committed to his work and his energy, his passion for education and students shines through everything he does.”

In his final newsletter to parents, Mr Ford said: “I would like to thank the governors, staff and colleagues I have had the pleasure to work with.

“I will miss the staff and the students and look forward to reading of your success in the years to come.”

Mr Ford led the school for the past five years. During that period it was the most improved school in East Anglia in 2012 and transferred to academy status in 2013.

Phil Hearne, a former interim head of the Hewett School in Norwich, has been appointed as interim principal for the remainder of the academic year.

Mr Pomfret said: “Clearly, it can be an unsettling time for everyone when the leader of a school or academy leaves.

“The Trust is fully committed to supporting Downham Market Academy, its students and staff to become a great school and we cannot afford to lose momentum in our drive for improvement.

“Phil is a very experienced educational leader with an impressive track record of transforming under-performing schools and delivering significant improvements in exam results.

“I am confident that he will provide strong and inspirational leadership for staff and students and will have an immediate impact on performance across the academy.”

Mr Ford is the third secondary school head in the area to leave their post in just a few weeks.

Last month, Cheryl Hill was sacked from her role as principal of the Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham, following an investigation into breaches of safeguarding procedures.

The headteacher of Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School, Paul Marsh, has also signalled his intention to stand down at the end of this month, when the school is due to convert to academy status.