Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Harris Federation set to take over Gable Hall School

DESPITE the recommendation of governors and a hope that three Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope schools might stay under the same control, it has emerged the government is to put Corringham’s Gable Hall School under the control of one of its favourite academy trusts.

It has been announced that the school will be put under administrative leadership of the Harris Foundation, which already runs schools in Chafford Hundred and West Thurrock

While it appears that the future leadership of Gable Hall is decided, mystery surrounds what will happen to Hassenbrook Academy secondary school and Corringham Primary.

All three schools have been under the management of the Ortu Federation, which was set up in the summer of 2011 and within two years had taken on Corringham primary. Hassenbrook, which was struggling as an academy in its own right, came under its wing in 2016.

The Federation was led by the domineering and often somewhat eccentric Dr Sophina Asong who had her own style of autocratic leadership and, history is likely to reveal, was often at odds with her schools’ governing bodies.

Gable Hall, once rated as one of Britain’s top secondary schools under the 18-year tenure of legendary head John King OBE, began a slow decline under her initial headship when she succeeded Mr King and that slide continued when she moved on to become the Federation’s CEO. The school’s Ofsted inspections deteriorated, culminating in the announcement that the school was rated inadequate in July last year.

When Dr Asong stepped up, Clive Stokes held the post of head for less than two years, before Ceri Evans was appointed in 2018.

Mr Evans was to carry the can for the Ofsted report. As many parents clamoured for a change of leadership in the Federation, it was announced (after a period of secrecy) that he had tendered his resignation in the wake of the inspection.

Mr Evans, who has yet to speak publicly on the matter, was popular with many parents and pupils who did not blame him for the school’s demise. A petition calling for his reinstatement was signed by many hundreds of local people and protests took place outside the school with the Federation leadership the target of criticism.

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  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgEdfsH8OKk It’s hard to believe, when you look back at this ‘self-assured’ performance in 2009, made possible by the sheer hard work, vision(s), and leadership of two great back-to-back Heads (the late Les Jones, 1980-1994, and John King himself, 1994-2011), what would happen next. When ‘I’ read yesterday (24th January, 2023), that the Harris Federation will now incorporate (Ortu) Gable Hall School, it brings to an end, finally, a derisory period in the history of this once proud school, and, some might argue, the slow but inexorable decline and fall from grace, after 2011, which saw the momentum of the success built up over that previous 30 years, effectively ‘wasted’ by the leadership that followed. By the time the leadership of the school passed to John King’s former Curriculum Deputy, Clive Stokes, as perhaps it should have done in 2011, the damage had already been done. Stokes, arrived in 1994, as Curriculum Deputy, four years after John, who had himself also first taken up the mantle of Curriculum Deputy, in 1990, under then-Head, Les Jones. Whilst finally given the reins in 2017, Stokes must have realized the uneviable situation he then faced, but he tried his best. Unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, both he, and his successor Ceri Evans, both had to resign their Headships, one after the other, following damning Ofsted Reports perhaps ultimately beyond their control, as the long-term consequences of poor strategic leadership after 2011 finally ‘bit hard’ on the capacity of the school to perform well anymore, let alone previously ‘outstanding’ levels; they did not deserve to have ‘their’ careers blighted by what eventually happened to Gable Hall. Of Sophina Asong, the Gable Hall Governors’ choice in 2011 as the ‘new’ Head, following John King’s retirement, the responsibility perhaps, for much of this unfolding, and unnecessary debacle, is now unavoidable, and some might say well over due; indeed, a ‘Your Thurrock.com’ on-line article, dated 24 Jan 2023, went as far as to pass judgement on the Asong-years in ‘this’ way: “…the domineering and often somewhat eccentric Dr Sophina Asong who had her own style of autocratic leadership and, history is likely to reveal, was often at odds with her schools’ governing bodies”. Sadly now, Gable Hall, once described in one of its four Outstanding Ofsted reports, under John King, as a school where learning had become seen and regarded as ‘cool’, may never recover or re-occupy the position of high local esteem and national reputation, it once previously enjoyed and so richly deserved. (Anonymous personal view of a former Gable Hall teacher, 1985-2000).


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