Beccles Free School headteacher and deputy to step down at Easter

Nigel Youngman, who is stepping down as headteacher of Beccles Free School. Picture: SECKFORD FOUNDA

Nigel Youngman, who is stepping down as headteacher of Beccles Free School. Picture: SECKFORD FOUNDATION FREE SCHOOLS TRUST - Credit: Archant

The headteacher and deputy headteacher of Beccles Free School are stepping down at Easter, it has been announced. David Lees, headteacher of Saxmundham Free School, has been appointed as the new headteacher of Beccles Free School, and will lead both schools, which are part of the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust.

David Lees, headteacher at Saxmundham Free School. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

David Lees, headteacher at Saxmundham Free School. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Graham Watson, director of the trust, expressed disappointment that Nigel Youngman, headteacher of Beccles Free School, and deputy head Tom Ward are leaving at Easter. But he insisted there will be no “disruption to education or loss of leadership”.

Waveney’s first free school was ranked the eighth best in Suffolk, out of 43 mainstream secondary schools, for the headline Progress 8 measure in last year’s GCSE results. Its score of 0.44 meant each student achieved almost half-a-grade more than predicted when they left primary school. In total, 64% left with the expected standards in English and maths, above the national average. The 2017 cohort was the school’s original first Year 7 group.

Mr Youngman, who joined in 2015, told the EADT in an interview before the news that the hard work of teachers, parents, trustees, and students was “vindicated” by the 2017 results.

Mr Youngman said: “I saw the anxiety. Free schools were new. They were unknown. There were a lot of myths and uncertainty about what that might bring. In reality, it has brought an enriched education environment.

“Beccles Free School really helps progress in terms of English and maths, which employers look at. We help students achieve strong results across all subjects. We also bring something much deeper: personal development and confidence, helping young people explore and discover passions and interests through enrichment.”

The school opened in September 2012, initially at the former Carlton Colville Primary School site, before relocating to the former lower school site of Sir John Leman High School in 2014.

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There had been local opposition to the school’s opening of the school, with some claiming it would affect the viability of other schools in the area, particularly the 1.400-pupil Sir John Leman High School just one mile away.

Mr Youngman added: “Sir John Leman has increased its numbers, so any fear that it was going to detract from that is clearly not the case. Parents now have a choice between two strong schools.”

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Mr Watson said: “We are disappointed that the Beccles Free School headteacher, Nigel Youngman, and deputy headteacher, Tom Ward, will be leaving at the end of this term. Mr Youngman has demonstrated excellent leadership qualities and the determination to ensure we seek the best outcomes for our students.

“With Mr Youngman and Mr Ward leaving, this has given us the opportunity to review and streamline our management and ensure that maximum resources are directed to teaching and learning. Having carefully considered a number of options, we have decided to have one headteacher of both Beccles Free School and Saxmundham Free School.

“We are delighted to say that Mr David Lees, the current headteacher of Saxmundham Free School, will become the headteacher of both schools from April 1 2018. Mr Lees will spend time at both schools and he will be ably supported by the talented senior leadership teams and staff.

“Our three schools operate in a very similar way with their curriculums, values and policies, so we are confident that Mr Lees will be well placed to ensure there is no disruption to education or loss of leadership at Beccles or Saxmundham free schools.

“Almost all decisions about the curriculum and initiatives to improve student outcomes are taken centrally by the Trust Leadership Group, of which the headteachers are members, and these changes have contributed to the trust’s success with all three schools (Beccles, Saxmundham and Ixworth) being in the top 10 in Suffolk and top 10% nationally for student progress. “Beccles Free School was the highest performing school for English and maths at grade 5 in the Beccles and Bungay area and its performance contributed to the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust being placed seventh (out of 62 multi-academy trusts) in England for student progress and 1st in England for the progress made by disadvantaged students.

“We have no doubt that Mr Lees will continue the great work of Mr Youngman and his team.”

Saxmundham Free School headteacher reflects on ‘growing public confidence’ and record GCSE results.

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