New headteacher’s mission for Bruntcliffe as governors face axe

David Gurney is the new executive headteacher of Bruntcliffe School. (D511A441)
David Gurney is the new executive headteacher of Bruntcliffe School. (D511A441)

The new executive head teacher of Bruntcliffe School has said that he wants to “move the school forward” after he took up his new role last week.

David Gurney, who is also head teacher of Cockburn School in Beeston, has been drafted in as an interim appointment after Leeds City Council announced that current head teacher Heather Scott was on sick leave for the forseeable future.

The appointment ends a period of intense speculation around the school after parents demanded answers about issues of behaviour, poor GCSE results and high staff turnover in recent years.

In a separate development, the council has said that it is seeking to dissolve the school’s current governing body and establish an interim executive board to “increase the pace of improvement” at the school.

Leeds City Council has announced that it is applying to the Department of Education for permission to put an interim executive board in place of the current body of governors.

The local authority has said current head Heather Scott is not in school and is on sick leave.

David Gurney, who is headteacher at Cockburn High School in Beeston, has been brought in to Bruntcliffe as executive head on an interim basis, and has been briefed with assisting the school’s conversion to an academy.

In an open letter to parents, Paul Brennan, deputy director of Children’s Services said: “Headteacher (Heather Scott) is currently not in school due to illness.

“We wrote to the school’s governing body on 19 September to set out our concerns in a formal warning notice. An extraordinary meeting of the school’s governing body took place on 23 September 2014, and a unanimous decision was taken to accept the warning notice and to ask Leeds City Council for additional support to make sure that all the issues are addressed swiftly and effectively.

“As a result of this, Leeds City Council is now applying to the DfE for permission to dissolve the school’s current governing body and establish an interim executive board in its place.”

Mr Gurney is a former drama teacher and has been head at Cockburn School since 2008. The school recently received a favourable Ofsted rating of “good with outstanding features.” He will spend three days a week at Bruntcliffe, while continuing his role in Beeston.

Mr Gurney told the Observer & Advertiser: “I’ve agreed to come in and stabilise the ship and my brief is really to identify an academy sponsor and to work with whoever’s going to take over Bruntcliffe and turn it into an academy. My main role will be to draw up an action plan to address the findings of the recent Ofsted visit (at Bruntcliffe) and look at putting some stability back into the school and working out how we move the school forward.

“I’ve met all the staff and there’s some outstanding teachers and some fantastic members of staff here. What’s happened in the past has happened in the past - my job is to work with the present staff and I’ve every confidence that we will move the school forward.” The new executive head addressed parents at Morley Town Hall on Monday night and explained in further detail his plans to move the school forward.

Debbie Roberts, who has a son in Year 11 at the school said that she was impressed by Mr Gurney: “I thought he was really nice and he spoke well. Everybody I spoke to said that he’s put confidence back into the school. I didn’t hear one negative comment about him after speaking to other parents afterwards,”

The school could potentially become an academy in time for the next academic year, at which point Mr Gurney’s leadership of the school would end.