This is a sad reminder of the pressures being heaped on headteachers to achieve ever increasing standards although, without the knowledge of his medical condition revealed by the inquest, Mark’s achievements would suggest from the outside that he was well equipped to face the challenges. He had been awarded National Leader of Education status, awarded to some headteachers of OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ schools who meet demanding criteria and are willing with their schools to work with others in challenging circumstances. In this context, with Allington having been judged Outstanding twice, he was asked to take over the failed Aylesford Primary School, an academy sponsored by the Valley Invicta Academy Trust (VIAT) back in March, shortly after it became an academy. The previous substantive headteacher had been removed by Kent County Council following the ‘Special Measures’ inspection result in 2012.
He could have been feeling increased pressure from any or all of three additional loads that may have contributed to his actions. Firstly, the school had not had a full inspection since 2005, when it was found ‘Outstanding’, although this decision had been confirmed by a reduced tariff inspection in 2008. A new Inspection was therefore imminent, and there would have been immense pressure to maintain its ‘Outstanding’ status. He had taken on responsibility for Aylesford Primary in March, although some say he was absent from school at the time through illness, and would be under intense pressure to turn it round. A statement from KCC and VIAT said the local authority worked in partnership with governors of schools to ensure headteachers were supported, but he was still in a lonely place, with VIAT having no other primary school experience for him to draw on. Finally, Allington Primary was a stand alone primary academy and the extra responsibilities are significant.
Whatever, the pressures be they work related as his medical condition would indicate, or else came from outside school proved too much for him and he tragically took his own life, leaving behind his widow and children.
Now is not the time to apportion blame for his death, but surely those in authority need to recognise the enormous demands being made, not only on headteachers but all in this great profession which carries such a huge responsibility for the futures of all our children. Just one statistic on this sad occasion: two out of every five new teachers in the profession leave in their first five years. I am confident that the great majority of these became teachers for vocational reasons, but unless the huge demands being made of all teachers are reduced, this haemorrhage of talent will continue and we shall see more tragedies like this one.
In any case, and very sadly given the shortage of teachers coming forward to become headteachers, this example will certainly cause some to look twice about seeking leadership roles. However, in his lifetime Mark Geadah was clearly an outstanding teacher and headteacher, and one would hope that part of his legacy is the positive example he set whilst he lived.