Head who turned around school in turmoil will stand down

SUCCESS: Mr Toland celebrating school success last year with pupils Dean Beattie and Katie Downer.

SUCCESS: Mr Toland celebrating school success last year with pupils Dean Beattie and Katie Downer.

by Jon Reeve , Education Reporter 11:12am Thursday 31st January 2013 in

HE is the inspirational head teacher who has overseen the dramatic turnaround in fortunes of a Southampton school.

But now the principal of Oasis Academy Mayfield has revealed he is to hand over the reins after four-and-a-half years at the helm.

When John Toland arrived at the then newly formed secondary school, created through the controversial merger of Grove Park and Woolston schools, it was in turmoil.

Principal Ruth Johnson had quit after her short reign was marred by pupils rampaging through the corridors, staff leaving and more than 100 parents calling for her to quit at an emergency meeting with city MP John Denham.

In the next two years, Oasis Mayfield found itself bottom of a national league table for GCSE results and was then branded “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors. But within 18 months of that report, the school had completely transformed itself.

Exam results have risen dramatically and delighted staff and pupils moved into a stunning new £15m building.

Shortly after, Ofsted last year confirmed things had improved rapidly and the academy was safely on track to continue getting better.

And now, Mr Toland, whose “excellent leadership” was praised by inspectors as empowering “staff at all levels to grow and excel with the prime focus of securing students’ achievement”, believes it is time for someone else to move that project forward.

He said: “I came here for three days and I’ve been here fourand- a-half years.

The work that is under way is a long-term plan to deliver an outstanding rating. The past two years have put the early few years firmly into history. If I felt it wasn’t secure then I wouldn’t be prepared to hand it on.

“I believe it’s in a positive place now to have somebody who is going to be here for the long term. Applications for next year are up massively. We’ve had 135 put us as first choice and 122 as second choice, and we’re looking at a very strong intake.

“That was the cherry on the cake because it shows we have converted hearts and minds.

Securing that was one of my aims. There’s a positivity and there’s an energy with the students and that’s what we’ve been driving.

Mr Toland, who is now involved in the process of recruiting his replacement before taking a break to consider his potential next role, said he will look back fondly on his time at Mayfield.

He said: “There’s no denying it’s been hard work, but every challenge has been outweighed by immense rewards and pride.

“We talk about lifelong learning and it’s definitely added to my learning. I’m taking away great memories and great experience.

It’s been a privilege to work with these young people – they’re just amazing.”

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11:19am Thu 31 Jan 13 George4th says…

Job well done John Toland! I wish you every success for the future.

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12:07pm Thu 31 Jan 13 Bingo from Sholing says…

I was a pupil at the excellent Woolston School. There was no need to "turn around" the school, as it always performed in a way that developed the lives of ordinary children from ordinary backgrounds. No political statement was necessary by mergers or change of funding. Woolston School just needed the services of dedicated and inspirational staff. I am unsure what this person has done, and I feel the acclaim may be misplaced.

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12:15pm Thu 31 Jan 13 MGRA says…

Woolston school had head teachers that were legendary. Bailey and Harris in the 80s were the amongst the best Southampton has ever seen.... but then again they were legally allowed to beat pupils with pretty much anything they could get their hands on.... :0)

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