All change again at Park Academy

Andrew Cooper, interim principal of Sheffield Park Academy.
Andrew Cooper, interim principal of Sheffield Park Academy.
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A STRUGGLING Sheffield academy is set for another leadership shake up - for the fourth time in five years.

Andrew Cooper, interim principal at Sheffield Park Academy on the Manor, is stepping down over half term due to the illness of his daughter.

The new acting principal is current associate principal Maria Nightingale, who started work at Park last June.

Mr Cooper had been in charge at Park - which remains on the Government’s failing blacklist - for less than a year.

He is now on compassionate leave and will resume employment with the United Learning Trust, the charitable group which runs Park, closer to his home in the East Midlands when his daughter has made a full recovery.

Mr Cooper took over from former headteacher Kath Turner, who stepped aside last March to go on an 18-month secondment at Sheffield Hallam University.

The academy’s first head was Andy Gardiner, who also led the secondary in its previous incarnation as Waltheof School.

He left in 2007 to be succeeded by David Lewis, who for a period oversaw both Park and its sister academy Springs.

Park has been through another troubled period this term with reports of racial tensions and a serious incident which saw several pupils arrested by police following an attack on a student.

It has been in special measures since the summer of 2009 and later received criticism from inspectors that not enough progress was being made to turn things around.

ULT deputy chief executive Kathy August said Mrs Nightingale would stay in charge for as long as she was needed.

She added: “The situation at Park is now progressing to Ofsted’s satisfaction and we hope to move out of special measures soon.

“One advantage of our position is that we will be inspected every year and we have tight expectations as to what those inspections will find. We aim to move up a grade each time with our ultimate aim to be rated outstanding.”

The next inspection is expected sometime during the second half of the summer term.

“Following a recent visit from the two education advisers who make regular visits to the academy, we have received endorsements of the positive improvements in teaching and learning and student behaviour,” Mrs August added.

ULT drafted in a heavyweight team of school leaders last year to boost performance. Since then the principal has been supported by three vice-principals and six assistant vice-principals, several of them from other ULT academies.