Free School headteacher quits after 6 months

Annaliese Briggs was appointed principal of Pimlico primary in central London in March by a charity set up by a government minister. She had no teaching qualifications and little experience in running a school. The new free school is sponsored by the Future Academies charity set up by Lord Nash, a junior schools minister and one of Michael Gove‘s closest allies.

On Wednesday Pimlico primary confirmed that Briggs had left her post to “pursue other opportunities in primary education”. She will become a governor at the school instead. The school began admitting pupils for the first time last month.

Sources close to the academy say she was finding it difficult to cope with the workload. One local teacher, who did not want to be named, said he was surprised that such an inexperienced candidate had been selected.

“She was not happy because she could not cope with the job, full stop. It was too much to learn, too quickly.”

Pimlico primary opened in September to 60 pupils, on the site of Pimlico Academy, a mile from the Houses of Parliament.

Briggs, an English literature graduate from Queen Mary, University of London, had worked as a junior member of staff at the rightwing thinktank Civitas. She had no qualifications when appointed but was reportedly trained in Wandsworth in preparation for the beginning of the school year. She said that she would ignore the national curriculum and teach lessons “inspired by the tried and tested methods of ED Hirsch Jr”, the controversial American academic behind what he calls “content-rich” learning.

Kevin Brennan, the shadow schools minister, said Briggs’s decision to stand down raised questions for the government. “Parents will be worried that David Cameron is presiding over a dumbing down of standards in schools by allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms. Labour wants to see social entrepreneurs and educational innovators injecting dynamism into our schools but not at the expense of rigour and high standards.”…

A spokesperson for Future Academies said: “Having successfully set up Pimlico primary, Annaliese Briggs has decided to leave Future Academies to pursue other opportunities in primary education.”

A new headteacher has been appointed who “is already known to the pupils and families of Pimlico primary, and brings over 10 years experience in both early years and leadership”.

If you ask me this has made a mockery of the Free Schools programme. Whilst the system for setting up a Free School is long-winded and can take a couple of years to finalise, at this moment in time, due to the lack of regulation on the setup of these schools, unqualified people can be appointed as teaching in our classrooms, and anyone can own or set up a free school. I thought the government were trying to increase standards not decrease them?! I would like to see regulations set so only those who are qualified educational practitioners can set up a Free School.

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