Beaulieu head teacher Chris Beirne has stepped down "with immediate effect" and will instead take on a "less visible" role amid a controversial restructuring of the school’s senior management.
A letter to parents sent yesterday afternoon from Board of Trustees Chair Bernadette Cooper said that secondary deputy head Paul Robinson would undertake the role in an acting capacity.
It also said that a new position would soon be advertised to replace that held by Mr Beirne and former head of secondary Andrea Firby.
The move comes amid protest and criticism sparked by the latter’s recent departure.
Pictured: Mrs Firby has been "the face of Beaulieu" for over a decade.
Mr Beirne, who is due to retire at the end of 2024, has been asked to continue helping with "less visible" elements of the school’s management before he leaves and will teach a "limited number" of religious education lessons.
The news follows criticism over Mrs Firby’s exit, which prompted a social media backlash against senior management and claims from several parents that they would keep their children at home on the first day of term in protest.
A petition describing Mrs Firby as a "stalwart" of the Beaulieu community – calling for the resignation of the school’s chief executive, chief operating officer "and the remaining trustees" – had also been signed by more than 800 people, as of yesterday.
The school has stressed that the popular member of staff took voluntary redundancy as part of a process to streamline senior management – to ensure it could further invest in frontline teaching.
Pictured: The petition has been signed by over 800 people in the four days since it was started.
Yesterday’s letter said that Mr Robinson would hold the responsibilities of head teacher until a permanent successor could be appointed for the new role, which will combine Mrs Firby’s position with that of Mr Beirne.
"Mr Beirne, over recent years, has focused a considerable amount of time on elements of the school’s management, which we appreciate have been less visible, including the development of our sports centre, relationship with CYPES and development of a target operating model to modernise and secure the school for the future," the letter read.
"In the lead-up to his retirement, the board of directors have asked Mr Beirne to continue to focus on these important elements, and his valuable contribution in this regard is much needed in securing our future as a school. Mr Beirne will also teach a limited number of religious education lessons."
The letter added that the new head role was due to be advertised "soon".
The board also sought to reassure parents and staff "that the safety and education of our students remains our priority".
"In this regard, we have taken additional security measures to provide support on the first day of term should any physical protest take place. Members of our senior management team for both primary and secondary will be present at drop-off on the first day back to provide reassurance," the letter continued.
Assemblies on the matter are also due to be held and all students will be "offered an opportunity to pass on messages or notes of thanks for Mrs Firby".
Parents and guardians of students at Beaulieu Convent School have been invited to a meeting on Thursday 26 January at which the senior leadership team will give a presentation and answer questions.
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