Dereham Sixth Form director confirms resignation but will return in management role

Director of Dereham College Phyllis O'Grady, who will step down from the role at the end of March.

Director of Dereham College Phyllis O'Grady, who will step down from the role at the end of March. Picture: ARCHANT. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The director of Dereham Sixth Form College has announced her resignation from the role for the second time in a year.

In an e mail to parents, students and staff today, Dereham Sixth Form College director Phyllis O'Grady said she will be stepping down on March 31 but will return to the college later in the year as a member of the management team and to teach English and drama.

Ms O'Grady originally announced she would be resigning as director in January 2016, 'following deteriorating relations with the head of Dereham's Neatherd High School.'

But she accepted a request from the headteacher and governors of Northgate High School to stay in the post for a further year 'to ensure continuity and leadership' during a challenging time.

We have previously reported how proposals were put forward by Neatherd High School last February to open a second sixth form college in Dereham.

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This would have seen the end of a 39-year partnership between Dereham's two high schools, Neatherd and Northgate.

The proposals polarised opinions in the town and were quashed by Norfolk County Council.

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The council then revised its position and invited Neatherd's governors to put together an 'appropriately robust' business case and financial plan.

Today the future direction of Dereham Sixth Form College remains unclear.

In today's e mail, Ms O'Grady said: 'I am writing to advise you that I will be stepping down as director of Dereham Sixth Form College with effect from March 31, 2017.

'In January, 2016 I handed in my resignation following a year of deteriorating relations with the head of Neatherd High School which I increasingly felt was hampering my ability to run the college effectively.

'This was swiftly followed by Neatherd High School's sudden announcement that it was withdrawing from the collaborative partnership, that had governed the sixth form for the previous 40 years, and intended to offer its own sixth form provision with effect from September the same year.

'Naturally this caused huge upset and turbulence amongst current and future students as well as staff.

'The priority for Northgate High School and the college was to ensure that we could continue to teach all courses and fulfil our promises to those students to whom we had offered places.

'Northgate High School gave employment contracts to all college-based teaching staff who had previously been employed by Neatherd High School, thereby ensuring continuity of teaching provision.

'The headteacher and governors of Northgate High School also asked me to stay in post for a further year to ensure continuity and leadership during this challenging time.

'I have been pleased to do this and to see the college attain the excellent results last summer that we had confidently predicted.

'It has also allowed me to be involved in establishing the effective leadership and management arrangements which will take the college forward as the pre-eminent post-16 provider in mid-Norfolk.

'The governors and headteacher of Northgate High School have considered future leadership arrangements as part of the planning to convert to a multi-academy trust, and further announcements will be made as that conversion progresses.

'I am stepping down as director in March but, after taking a term out to recuperate following an extremely challenging two years, I am delighted to say that I will be returning in September to teach English and drama in the college and will continue to play a role in the management team as Head of the Literature, Languages, Literature and Culture Faculty.

'I have very much enjoyed leading the college for the last six years and the privilege of working alongside colleagues and students in such a vibrant and exciting learning community which has for so long provided a model of collaborative working both within and beyond the county.

'I am excited to continue contributing to Dereham Sixth Form College which continues to go from strength to strength and to provide students from Dereham, and an increasingly wide surrounding area, with an excellent and well-rounded educational experience.'

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