Maureen makes the final four but new bosses reject her bid to stay on as Fenland school head

SHE made the final short list but Thomas Clarkson Community College head Maureen Strudwick has lost out on her bid to become principal of the Wisbech school once it acquires academy status.

She faced a gruelling interview in front of a high powered panel and will be “publicly acknowledged” for her work as the job is handed to someone else.

Ms Strudwick, who took over at a time of immense uncertainty and low staff morale, has shifted the school light years beyond what it is and in a very short time too. But Northamptonshire based Brooke Weston Partnership who won the rights to run the school for the next 30 years have looked elsewhere for their head.

Subject to only “final due diligence”, as executive principal Sir Peter Simpson described it to me last night, the name of the head who will take over at Easter should be known in a day or so.

Staff was given a breakfast time briefing today (Mon) on the selection process for the top job and told that of the 16 finalists just four – including Ms Strudwick- had made it through to the final stages.

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Despite her best endeavours, Ms Strudwick has found it difficult to shift attitudes speedily and as recently as last autumn Ofsted acknowledged this in their latest report.

“The proportion of parents and carers critical of the leadership and management of the college is above average,” they concluded.

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However Ofsted also noted major improvements and their inspection team was able to conclude that “the college is led and managed well. The principal and senior staff has successfully established a strong culture of high expectation and achievement.”

Ratification of the change emerged towards the end of last week when a seven strong panel – that included Brooke Weston staff, Department of Education officials and a Cambridgeshire County Council appointee- put the finalists through their paces.

“By the end of that process we were clear the school would be experiencing a change of leadership,” confided Sir Peter. “Now we have identified our preferred candidate there will be further discussions so we can move forward to making that appointment.”

Sir Peter was emphatic that the school’s new bosses were placing on record “the very significant achievement of Maureen Strudwick and her staff”. Ultimately though their concern was for the future “and to us that future seems to be better served under new leadership,”

He said staff was today being told of the selection process “and we want to acknowledge everything has happened in the past three years and share with them the decision of the panel”.

Thomas Clarkson Community College opened its doors to students this term with Phase 1 of its �30million re-development complete.

The new state of the art building, which has taken 16 months to complete, includes all the teaching accommodation spread across three new ‘learning communities’, a new kitchen and restaurant area, a new sports wing including a new sports hall, a new administration wing and an impressive new atrium which includes a climbing wall and a green wall.

The new atrium, which is the centre of the 1300 pupil school, will be able to accommodate 1500 students for assemblies and meetings.

Ms Strudwick, whose vision inspired the new building, said: “Many, many people have worked extremely hard to turn the ideas for our new school into breathtaking reality.

“I am confident that our fantastic new surroundings will help us to continue to improve everything we do at Thomas Clarkson Community College.”

Work on Phase 2, which includes demolition of the college’s existing buildings, development of a new hall/theatre and other performing arts accommodation, as well as the new car park and external landscaping, has begun. The whole project is due to be completed by November 2012.

Thomas Clarkson Community College is the second school in the Fenland Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to occupy part of its new accommodation. Phase 1 at Neale-Wade Community College in March was handed over in August 2011 and work started last summer at three other schools in the programme – Cromwell Community College in Chatteris, Sir Harry Smith Community College in Whittlesey and Meadowgate School in Wisbech.

Thomas Clarkson Community College opened as a fresh start school in September 2007. The previous school on the site, The Queen’s School, was judged to require special measures and closed in August 2007.

Ms Strudwick was appointed in 2009. She had previously acted in the post. The college was successful in its bid for a new build under the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ initiative.

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