Thursday, 1 September 2011

An interregnum

At the same time as Mrs Gumley Mason sent the letter to all parents, another letter was sent to all staff, and a copy has been made available to me.

This letter is not much more informative than the letter to parents. No reason is given for her departure. The one additional piece of information provided is that she states that she will be handing over to Mrs Wilson, who will become Acting Headmistress with effect from 1 January 2012.

I have to say that it is most unusual for a headteacher to leave part way through the academic year. And it is even more unusual (except where the departure is necessitated by health reasons) for a headteacher to cause an interregnum by leaving before a permanent successor has been appointed and is ready to take up his or her duties. I do hope Mrs Gumley Mason is not suffering ill health - I would not wish that on anybody.

It would appear that the post has not yet even been advertised. I've just made a search of the job listings on the Times Education Supplement website (where previous vacancies at the school have been advertised) and the vacancy is not yet listed there.

I think parents (who are paying for their daughters to attend) do deserve a bit more explanation than has so far been forthcoming. It is far from ideal to leave a school with an acting headteacher. I know nothing of Mrs Wilson, I have no reason to think that she will do anything other than her very best in the post. The problem is not with the person who will be acting headteacher, but rather the disruption that will inevitably occur as a result of two changes of headteacher in quick succession.


  1. Is it normal for an outgoing Head to decide who her successor (albeit acting Head) should be? Have the Governors have had any input in this decision-making process?

    My understanding is that Governors of a school normally look at potential candidates and make a decision on something like this. It was only at the end of last term that it was notified that there would be a new Senior Deputy Head as from September and now the same person is to be the new acting Head as from January. It doesn’t seem like a long time to adapt to the new responsibilities. If they advertise the post there might even be someone suitable to take the job on a permanent basis from January anyway.

    That person might be the proposed acting Head but surely there should be an application process to consider a few candidates at least?

    With all the bad feeling that seems to have developed around the school over the last few years it would seem like an ideal time to take stock and for the Governors (including the two newly appointed parent governors) to get together and agree on a civilised and dignified handover period for Mrs GM's last term.

    One would hope that any new appointments would have to be approved by the full board of Governors to avoid mutterings about appointments being made by the "old regime". That would not offer the new beginning that seems required to freshen up the school and stop more and more pupils leaving for St Benedicts and other schools.

    Hopefully the Governors will be having a meeting soon to agree a framework for an orderly handover and the chance to make sensible appointments where vacancies need to be filled amongst other things.

    Action is needed fast to send a clear signal that parents are right to choose St Augustine’s for good teaching, facilities, grounds and extra-curricular activities (such as sport). Time is of the essence from what parents around Ealing seem to be saying.

  2. West;this has absoluetly nothing to do with you,so move on.

  3. 08:57 You're welcome to believe that.

  4. 08.57
    No need to be so rude and touchy, people like you have been in total denial of what has been happening to the school.
    Look at the amount of children who have moved schools over the last 2 years. Parents have had enough and the only place we can vent our frustration has been on this blog as there will be no come back, in any other organisation suggestions and criticism are taken on board but that has not been the case in this establishment and as a result parents have moved there children.

  5. 08.57 - the child protection matter had nothing to do with West either according to posters of your disposition. Presently there is still no reliable evidence that these matters have been resolved. The departure of Mrs Gumley Mason will certainly assist, but that is just the start.

  6. 08:57 As the DfE tell us repeatedly Child Protection is everyone's business. Where have you been all this time?

    Silent and compliant perhaps?

  7. o8:57 I see money talks. Let's hope the other employees of the school don't wear their blindfolds anymore!

  8. As a parent, I believe Mr West has every right to show an interest.
    I am shocked we weren't told about Mrs Wilson.
    My daughter said "but she's only the geography teacher". This bothers me. How can someone without experience be left to carry the can for the Gumley Mason's mess?
    Totally absurd.

  9. 12:29
    I'm think ' Puppet on a string'

  10. 12:29
    (sorry meant) I'm thinking 'Puppet on a string'

  11. At least Mrs Wilson has a teaching qualification something that GM didn't have.
    Is Mr GM leaving?

  12. Mrs Wilson is indebted to FGM, as she gave her permission to use the school chapel and the grounds for her lovely wedding day. It is only natural that she would feel obliged to her.

  13. He couldn't survive at the school without her cloak to hide behind, so I'm sure we've seen the last of both of them at the school. Excellent timing as far as celebrations are concerned - it is the 'party season' after all. Our Christmas has arrived early!

  14. 14.09

    Mrs Wilson will not be working for GM when she stands in as Headmistress. so why would she feel obliged to her?

  15. The sooner new blood arrives at the school the better never known such an incestuous place

  16. I like Mrs Wilson but feel that she is too close to the Gumley-Masons. (They will only be 10 mins down the Road or a phone call away, lol). I agree that it is better for a complete outsider to come in, who isn't involved with the politics. Too much has gone on for far too long at the school. Ask any of the ex-employees!

  17. 14.51
    Can you enlighten us on the goings on.

  18. Why was Mrs Wilson the newly appointed deputy given this position over the two more experienced Deputy's ?

  19. Head teachers are normally required to give one term notice. It is not at all uncommon for an interregnum as it usually takes two terms to make an appointment. The person appointed will probably be contracted to give one term or three months notice from their existing job. GM is on the way out at last. Be glad and rejoice. Give Mrs Wilson a chance. If she is judged, let her be judged on what she does, not what might be. Sometimes conspiracy theorists run away with themselves on this blog.

  20. FGM could have given notice at Easter and therefore the new school year would have started with a new Head/acting Head in place.
    Although Mrs Wilson is nice, it is odd that she has been appointed over 2 experienced Deputy's -one of whom has been a Head/Deputy at another school - so definitely has the experience required! Wish her well and with their experience they should all do a good job for the school, let's face it, they have to be better than Gunley-Mason!

  21. I agree, from what I know of Mrs Wilson she's a decent person and deserves a fair chance.

  22. 16.39 - Sometimes conspiracy theorists run away with themselves on this blog.

    Who needs a conspiracy when all you have to do is look at all the extremely ugly facts that have resulted in regime change.

    To float ideas, question everything is not conspiracy - it is something all parents and teachers involved in the life of any school need to do on a daily basis.

    Using the 'C' word in the position that St Augustine's occupies is most unwise. The rest of you posting is very sensible.

  23. Folks, along with the valid comments that I've published there have been a few comments which are just engaging in name calling. It's a waste of electrons sending those, they aren't going to get published.

  24. Does anyone know how many pupils are at the school this year?

  25. Mr West is right. At this point, though, a brief review of the facts might help the discussion move on.

    They are the following:

    Mrs Gumley Mason became Headmistress in 1995
    Mr Strahan was already Deputy Head,
    Mr Strahan retired in July 2009,
    Three new Deputies were appointed from September 2009,
    The school was inspected,
    The inspectors found serious safeguarding failings and problems with staff files dating back many years,
    Inspection reports are normally published within 5 weeks of an inspection,
    In the case of St Augustine's the publication took 9 months,
    Mrs Gumley Mason told her staff and parents in writing on 7th July 2010 that no report had 'materialised'(her word)
    In fact Mrs Gumley Mason had received the draft report on 28th May 2010,
    Further investigation by the ISI of Teacher A, Teacher B and Father Gregory Chillman showed that safeguarding failings were not just a matter of bureaucratic problems with files.
    Mrs Gumley Mason had failed in her duty to protect children by failing the make the proper notifications about these people,
    She also continued to allow Fr Gregory Chillman access to children despite the restrictions placed on him,
    Mrs Gumley Mason pursued legal action against the Inspectorate and lost,
    This cost fee-paying parents money,
    Mrs Gumley Mason never apologised or explained,
    One of the Deputy Heads, Dr Harper, took a job as an English teacher at another school,
    Mrs Wilson was appointed Principal Deputy in June 2011 having had no previous senior management experience,
    This was announced to parents at the end of the summer term,
    At the end of August Mrs Gumley Mason wrote to parents saying she herself was leaving,
    This letter gave no information about what would happen next,

    The only publicly available information about who may take over is on this blog.

    Now ask yourselves if there isn't something rotten in the state of Denmark!

    Why did Mrs Gumley Mason resign so suddenly?
    Why did Dr Harper leave?
    Why is someone with no experience being put in charge?
    Did Mrs Wilson know of this when she was appointed?
    Does Mrs Wilson actually want to do this job or has she been forced to?

    And most importantly of all


    It should have been the decision of the GOVERNORS as a body, not a discredited Headmistress who is a proven liar. (And that's not name-calling - it's fact. A simple Freedom of Information Act request to the DfE confirms the dates of the reports and sheds light on Mrs Gumley Mason's approach - it is already circulating among some parents)

    Mrs Phillips, Dr Barnard we elected you to represent us.
    What is happening? When did you meet? Have you agreed to this?

  26. We all know that the comment of 07.44 is factual and correct.
    My question is - why was action not taken against the headmistress when all this came to light?
    Or is it that she has not resigned but is being kicked out?

  27. I agree with everything 07.44 says, we need to told the truth, yet again it seems we are being kept in the dark and only certain information is being released.
    We have been lied to for far too long complete transparency is needed.

  28. 07:44 provides an excellent summary and may prompt some parents to finally speak - I do hope so. I also hope the poster shares with us the FoI that is circulating. The questions the poster asks are important, but there are further important matters that need answering.

    Parents tend to get the school they deserve. St Augustine's parents have witnessed how out of control a school can get when parents stay silent. Clearly there are good people at the setting but when the captain had and perhaps still has no credible line management. After all it failed to even notice the launch of a grandiose legal action founded on a whim and funded by parents. Only a dictatorship can behave like this, and dictators tend not to reason with critical voices which are always rounded upon and victimised.

    With the recently announced news of Gumley Mason’s departure, there exists a golden opportunity to 'come out' and call to account the historic governors and just as importantly the trustees through the newly appointed and approachable parent governors. If the St Augustine’s parents take the easy option and sit on their hands and say nothing at this golden time, then you are failing your children.

    You will unlikely get another opportunity as good as this to lobby for improvements at the school. If you flunk it then you have no licence to complain.

  29. 14.31 The information from the Freedom of Information requests is too copious to publish here in full. It is a copy of all written communication between the DfE and interested parties or other government departments with regard to St Augustine's. This information is easy to access; as a citizen it is your right to see it if you wish.
    The latest communications indicate that yet another safeguarding policy is to be published and that the DfE have required changes to the policy published earlier this year. Despite all the public attention Mrs Gumley Mason was still clearly unable to produce a compliant policy. If the instructions are wrong on the packet the mixture cannot be expected to turn out right.

  30. Clearly the Governors urgently need to call a meeting urgently and agree with Mrs GM that she will not be making appointments and decisions that will affect the school after she departs.

    This should be the opportunity for the governors to plan how things can be improved and it’s a great opportunity for the two new parent governors to bring their experiences of the school to the table. Some of the older long standing governors who were in situ through the scandal of the last few years should consider whether it is appropriate for them to remain as Governors.

    A lot of parents and children have been especially disappointed with the sport in the school for a long time. This should be considered an urgent priority to compete with the schools where so many girls have departed to.

    Let’s hope the Governors can tackle this for quick improvements as it was flagged up as an area of concern leading to a parents “forum” last term.

  31. "Who needs a conspiracy when all you have to do is look at all the extremely ugly facts that have resulted in regime change."

    Unfortunately this blog has not yet proved ANY ugly or un-ugly "facts" so keep fishing

  32. 00.04 - What this blog has done is to question, to seek to find out the truth. Do you think that Mr West invented the information about Teacher A, Teacher B and so on?

    A Christian school needs to uphold Christian values: telling the truth is the most basic of them.
    Surely too we want to teach children in school to think for themselves, to question, to delve, to seek to understand.

    And does not humanity progress in this way? Does progress not come from questioning what is wrong and seeking to improve it?

    I am truly sorry for you that you view seeking the truth as some kind of conspiracy.

  33. Parents at St Augustine's need to receive clear straightforward information instead of letters which trivialise and patronise. The 'it's all jolly-hockey sticks here at Mallory Towers' tone is so hackneyed as to be the opposite of amusing. It is actually suspicious.
    There is a time for being witty, but it is not at the most serious moments.

  34. 00.01 makes a good point about the sport at the school. They have plenty of space and not a lot of schools have got that but they haven't put any money into it and it all seems disorganised. The forum about it was embarrassing frankly. A good sports hall might have been a better idea than a nursery.

  35. The kids haven't gone back to uni yet!

  36. 00:04 - Delusional to the end. There is nothing as powerful as those who do not wish to see.

    All you have to do is read the ISI report which for once in the inspectorates sorry history, managed to expose serial failures and wrongdoing, including referrals of incidents that should have been made [Para 4.8 on Page 9 of the report] but instead were not for reasons known only to the head who today, and very foolishly, remains the designated child protection officer. It is the very content of the report which led the headmistress, presumably in a fit of pique at the uncomfortable facts being discovered and exposed, to launch the misguided legal action which she did without informing the trustees.

    No fishing required, the ugly facts are set out in the report.


  37. 07:44

    Well done for making a Freedom of Information Act request concerning the school. Could you please contact me by email. I will of course treat it strictly in confidence.

    The information in the FOI response might be very useful to me in my researches concerning the inspectorates and their shortcomings.

    We know that there are serious shortcomings in the inspectorates. The ISI managed to miss completely the problems at St Benedict's, until I told the DfE to tell the ISI precisely what to look for.

    And there is every reason to think that OFSTED is no better.The safeguarding problems at St Augustine's have clearly existed for many years, and yet the 2006 OFSTED inspection of the school found nothing untoward.

    So your FOI information would be extremely useful to me in being able to give the DfE a kick up the backside. This will help protect children all over the country. Please email me at

  38. Thank you 07:24 for that very sensible contribution.

  39. Jonathan
    will you be looking at all Schools child protection or just fee paying schools?
    If you have a child at a paying school you can just get up and change schools,(although I do not think your readers do) but at state schools you have no choice, or is it your view that child protection problems only happen in fee paying schools?
    time to cast your nets.

  40. 12.29
    It is slightly ignorant to say 'You can just get up and change schools', it is very hard too move a child from a school were they are settled and have friends.
    In a state school you also have a choice I do not understand were you are coming from.
    State schools are run and operated very differently to the private sector.

  41. Good bye and Good riddance!

    As a parent of a past pupil, who was taken out due to poor teaching by Gumley Mason (as confirmed by the new school). Any headteacher who says to a child 'i hope you fail and you will not suceed at anything' deserves in my book all she gets.

    So good bye and good riddance

  42. She is a very spiteful, vindictive woman who only likes the high flyers, the best thing that could happen to the school is her resignation shame it's taken so long.

  43. I hope her nasty ways come back and haunt her, the number of children's lives that have been effected by her negativity, in my eyes she was the most unsuitable person to be employed as a head.

  44. Does anybody have an postal address/email address for any of the governors? I want to raise my concerns directly with them and not via the school. The rational for the appointment of the current interim head teacher needs explaining. Where are the two parent governors? An urgent parents meeting needs calling. If any of the governors are reading this please can you arrange this.

    A concerned parent

  45. 13:40
    Phone the school office and ask for the addresses of the governors. If they refuse to provide them, reply here and I'll see to it that this fact gets known to the governors.

    Alternatively, send a letter to each of the two parent governors, (you should have had their names as a result of the recent election) and mark the letter and the enclosing envelope "Private and confidential, to opened by addressee only." Reply here saying you have done so, so that the parent governors can see whether such letters are forwarded to them unopened.

  46. 22.46 Google and email. Not hard.

  47. The school will not provide you with the names and addresses of the governors, all correspondence has to go through them.

  48. How do we know which governors have resigned?

  49. 09.06
    Have governors resigned?

  50. Can you tell us who and why?

  51. I'm not aware of any recent resignations among the governors. If there had been I suspect that there would have been mention of it in the recent parent email.

    One could speculate about how long some of the governors intend continuing to serve, but I'm not going to.

  52. Have you heard that her husband has been suspended by the governors? Seemingly so, perhaps they've grown some balls and this is the first step before they send her on gardening leave. She is running the school down as of the start of term and she's picking off staff one by one, there will be no school left by Christmas. Please governors help us get rid of her NOW.

  53. At long last, why has he been suspended?
    I have heard one of the governors has stepped down!

  54. Apparently her husband was suspended because he tried to get passwords to staff email accounts!!!

  55. It is remarkable that she continues in situ if this is true about her husband being suspended and about her picking staff off one by one. So many parents have moved their girls away. Morale among staff must be pitifully low.

    The carry on there has the makings of a good book or film by all accounts. To use a hackneyed expression – you couldn’t make it up.

    I would have thought that the blatant mistruths told about the alleged non-receipt of the ISI report would have been enough alone for governors to relieve a head of duties with immediate effect.

    How can someone who has blatantly lied to her staff and parents about such an important thing retain her post? That is bad enough without even thinking about how much money must have been wasted in legal and court fees in her futile effort to withhold the truth.

    Surely she should have been asked to leave with immediate effect once that sorry episode came to light.

    It would seem that a serious problem until fairly recently has been that the head either didn't tell the governors what was going on or was too friendly with the governors such that they would rubber stamp anything she wanted.

    Alternatively if they all were being kept informed of what was going on how did they let it get to this? A great, great shame to see what has happened. The school has such potential.
    The sooner there is a shake up and the potential of the school is exploited the better. Using those lovely grounds properly and improving the sport would be a good start.

    Here’s to a bright future and the sooner it happens the better.

  56. All this claptrap is not getting anybody anywhere.

  57. 00:50

    This clap trap as you put it has got us very far.
    The headmistress has been exposed and shown her true colours for the liar and bully she is, I would say her resignation? if that's the truth, is the best thing to happen to St.Augustine's in the last 17 years.

  58. She was pushed, I'm told!

  59. Good,do you no who shoved her? The woman had it coming, hope she's not going to be lauding up at the Centenary Ball, actually I think it would be in very bad taste if she does attend.

  60. The woman has the skin of a rhino - she will attend!!

  61. Yes she will attend and she's going to pick off staff one by one before she goes. Those who were not her "supporters" beware. Governors: watch her every step, don't let her make any decisions on the future of the school or any of it's staff.

  62. Mrs GM should not have any say now on the running of the school she's has proved herself to be totally incompetent and not fit for the purpose.
    What is she hanging on for? I think it would be in the best interest of the school if she packs her bags now and leaves before inflicting anymore damage.

  63. Yes, why is she still there? There seems little point, I really do hope she is not being allowed to make decisions regarding the school as this could be extremely detrimental to the school.
    She's has been proved to be a liar, someone who cannot be trusted, why on earth is she allowed to be on school premises and why had she not been asked to leave with immediate effect when she handed in her notice! It would make no difference her leaving now, as there is already and acting head ready to step into her position.

  64. Mrs Wilson is an amazing asset to the school, she is organised, hard working, clever, fair and inspirational. Ask anyone who knows her, whose daughter has been taught by her, who works with her

  65. I am utterly appalled at this dreadful blog. It is damaging and unnecessary to post negative, unpleasant comments about Mrs.GM. She is an outstanding headmistress with a proven record of providing a happy and nurturing environment in which girls learn not only the national curriculum but also life skills. I have 2 girls at st.augustines who are both blissfully happy. (I also have boys at st.benedicts )

  66. Dreadful blog or not it came about because of Mrs Gumley Masons dishonest ways, she should have been honest from the start, instead she lied to us and as a result she has got what she deserves. Exposure for the sort of person she is!

  67. I cannot believe people are still defending her actions you need to get real.
    14.57 Happy and nurturing she has not provided that environment, the staff have most pupils fear her.

  68. Appalled at this blog! Surely the only thing you should be appalled by is the Headmistresses appalling behaviour, do you think it acceptable for the head to lie to us and spend our school fees on a futile court case just to name a few of the dreadful things she has done.

  69. Is it true that the husband has been suspended for trying to invade the staffs privacy by trying to access their email accounts?
    If yes it just shows what crooks have been running the school.

  70. It's a shame that people on this blog are all anonymous - myself included.
    The reason this blog is dreadful is because it seems that the objective is to damage the reputations of 2 excellent catholic schools.... And since I have children at both, I am upset about this.

  71. The schools did the damage themselves, i have had children in both schools, and yes they are excellent schools, but the headmistress of one went to extraordinary lengths to cover up her mistake, and as a result she has brought the school down.
    She has lied to parents time and time again she shows no remorse just arrogance, the school is only as good as its head.
    St.Benedict's is thriving and the bad publicity has not effected it, quite the reverse if you see how many ex St.Augustine's Pupils are now there.
    The reputation of St.Augustine's has been damaged by Mrs Gumley Mason and she did single handedly, there is no one else to blame.
    Blogs like this wouldn't exist if schools followed the correct procedures and I for one Thank you Mr West for exposing the failures and deceit that has occurred.

  72. 21,42

    You don't have to be anonymous

  73. 14:54

    So why do you sign as anonymous?!

  74. Can't wait for the New Year. Fresh start and Gumley-Mason GONE!!!

  75. Everybody knows that st.benedicts school is not the right environment for girls. The majority of parents who have moved their girls there are doing it for their own convenience because they already have sons there or if their girls are not up to the pace at st.augustines.
    St.benedicts takes any type of girl, they just want as many girls as they can get. They tend to be girls who have been refused a place at Notting hill or st.augustines. Certainly the girls in my sons class are not especially bright. I know for a fact that some girls were taken out of st.augustines not because their parents preferred st.benedicts, it was because they were bullies and their behaviour alienated them and their parents at st.augustines.

  76. Thats an outrageous statement, I moved my daughter not because she is a bully, but because I had had enough of a school that doesn't listen, and is run by one person and her husband.
    You will find that this the reason parents moved there children..

  77. There are bullies everywhere - even at St. Benedicts. Yes there are some bullies at St. Augustine's, particularly in the Sixth form but the biggest most vindictive bully is Frances Glumley-Mason! So glad she is going for good!

  78. Why have the governors or trustees not had the balls to dicipline her for all her failures.
    We elected 2 parent governors - what are they doing???????????????

  79. The same as the rest of them - telling us stuff we already know!!

  80. Well i am losing faith in the newly elected Governor's they seem to be as ineffectual as the rest of them. So far they seem to have done nothing, and I doubt that will change as they are outnumbered by the trusty sycophants

  81. New governor's were elected in May but I haven't heard a word from them. Didn't someone mention that GM had been involved in their selection. Was I naive to believe that the blogger was being cynical?

  82. Yes you were being naive, there is no democratic process at St.Augustine's, the only process in place is The What's Best for the Gumley Masons, always has been.

  83. all the latest revelations concerning St Benedicts and Ealing Abbey must be a welcome distraction from activity here regarding St A's.