A TROUBLED Southampton school where pupils went on the rampage is facing a mass exodus of teachers, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Following the shock resignation yesterday of principal Ruth Johnson, it is understood that up to 19 staff at Oasis Academy Mayfield have handed in their notice this term.
Ms Johnson’s departure comes just two weeks after she told the Daily Echo she wanted to make a success of the school, formed in September from the merger of Grove Park and Woolston schools.
Staff arrived at work yesterday to be told by chairman of governors Billy Kennedy that Ms Johnson had been replaced by John Toland, who has been working at the school for the past month as part of Oasis’s education support team.
The school is run by the Oasis Christian organisation. Its chief executive officer, Steve Chalke, has written to parents to explain the changes.
Mr Toland and newly-appointed senior deputy principal Kevin Mahon were drafted in as troubleshooters from a consultancy called Education London after pupils went on the rampage through the school in October, causing hundreds of pounds of damage.
Mr Toland is understood to be holding meetings with parents in coming weeks.
As parents and union chiefs came to terms with Ms Johnson’s resignation, it emerged that up to 19 of the school’s 70 staff have resigned since Sept-ember because of timetabling chaos and the difficulties in travelling between the school’s two sites in Weston and Woolston.
A dozen are thought to be teachers and it is understood that several do not have another job lined up.
A source told the Daily Echo that Ms Johnson had given no hint that she was on the verge of departing at a staff training day at Southampton’s Central Hall on Friday.
On Friday night more than 100 parents turned up to a private meeting with Southampton Itchen MP John Denham to voice their concerns about the academy.
Speaking from Westmin-ster yesterday, Mr Denham said: “I was shocked when I spoke to parents and I was hoping to bring a pre-arranged meeting with Ruth Johnson forward. I will now be looking to meet with the school’s new principal as soon as possible.”
Last night a spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Families and Schools refused to say whether schools minister Ed Balls had intervened after an approach from Mr Denham.
She said: “The present situation is a matter between Oasis and its staff. Oasis have appointed a new principal and, as with all academy developments, ministers are kept informed.”
The departure of Ms Johnson sparked calls from local councillors for Oasis to answer their critics.
Woolston ward councillor Warwick Payne said: “It was clear that drastic steps were needed to turn this school around, especially as the countdown to GCSEs is now well under way.
“Having attended a meeting with about 100 parents and John Denham, it was clear that many parents and pupils were not happy with the state of the new school.
“These lessons must be learned quickly, as this situation cannot be allowed to happen again.
“I would like to know whether Ruth Johnson made this decision on her own free will or whether it was suggested to her along with a nice compensation package.”
Mr Payne, a journalist for the Daily Echo’s sister paper, the Hampshire Chronicle, added: “While Mrs Johnson’s experience will be a loss to the school, Mayfield now has a chance to draw breath and reinvent itself, and make a fresh start.”
Ms Johnson’s departure was welcomed by Southampton’s teaching unions, who said that students taking GCSE exams next summer had suffered.
Ron Clooney, from the NASUWT teaching union, said: “Ruth Johnson’s resignation is good news for the community and staff of the academy.
“However, the leaders of Oasis Learning Academy and Southampton local education authority should hang their heads in shame.
“Children in Year 11, whose exam year this is, have had so much disruption it is unforgivable.”
Pete Sopowski, from Southampton NUT, said: “The unions will work with the new principal to encourage staff to stay and to make sure pupils don’t have their education disrupted.”
Sherin Sullivan, 44, from Woolston, whose son is in Year 10, said: “She (Mrs Johnson) had to go really as the parents would have always been on her back.
“For too long pupils in years ten and 11 have been overlooked and not enough focus was on them.”
In a statement, Mr Chalke praised Ms Johnson for her work at the academy and said the welfare of the students was his “priority”.
He said: “Ruth has a passion for the needs of young people and we wish her well in her future plans.
“The welfare of our students will always remain our priority and we passionately believe they will benefit enormously from the new leadership team now in place at the school.”
The academy’s new principal, Mr Toland, said he was “fully focused” on making the academy a success.
He said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed to this important position and am absolutely committed to making Mayfield a success.
“I want to assure parents, students and staff that I’m fully focused on providing the best possible education for our children.
“I’d also like to thank Ruth and pay tribute to her hard work that I will look to build on.”
Councillor Peter Baillie, Southampton City Council Cabinet member for children’s services and learning, said: “I’m confident that Oasis Community Learning is acting in the best interests of the students and staff at Mayfield.
“We will continue to work closely with the academy in this time of change in order to support the needs of Southampton’s young people.
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Ruth Johnson for the work she has done in the city and wish her luck in the future.”
Clive Webster, executive director for children’s services and learning, added: “We are committed to our partnership with Oasis Community Learning and will continue to work with them to ensure the continuity of education for students at Mayfield.”