Earlier today, children attending the brand new Tidemill School brought home a letter addressed to their parents and carers from Head Teacher Mark Elms – announcing his intention to retire at the end of the academic year in August 2012!
So only a few months after Mr Elms – against the preferences of both Lewisham Council and Tidemill parents – has taken the school out of local authority jurisdiction to become an Academy, and only two months after he moved the school into the new £24m building paid for by the local authority (us), he's leaving the
The shock announcement comes hot on the heels of a Daily Mirror story last Saturday, reporting the GMB union's outrage that the 58 year old 'super-head' had been awarded £20k in bonuses "while his staff are being offered another pay freeze for a third year".
We wonder what Chair of Governors Keith Geary will do without his chum. When Elms worked elsewhere on a City Challenge project in Croydon, the school was awarded £120k to ensure pupils did not lose out, but Geary saw fit to award Elms 85% of the funding to his hero. Elms had previously reassured both parents and governors that he would be leading then into the future.
Picture credit: Jeff Moore for Mirror.co.uk
Meanwhile, what is happening to the old school?
Lewisham Council have called in New Bould Guardians to look after it, that's what. Who are they? According to their website, they are a cheap option to paid security guards, an organisation that takes on empty buldings for a minimum of two months, placing "guardians" on the site – "real" people who have been conscientiously vetted. Examples of such folk include freelance photographer Emily, London firefighter Peter, and actor and opera singer Juan. Presumably, they get to live in the premises rent free.
Nothing wrong with that, but how much is Lewisham council paying for this service? There are already at least two artist-led organisations with established reputations for running highly successful spaces in Deptford who are facing uncertain futures with the tenures on the buildings they presently occupy about to run out in the coming months. Another successful studio group recently fell foul of Workspace's contractual shenanigans and found themselves homeless. Were these groups given any consideration, we ponder...