A NEW headteacher is being sought for a West Somerset school which closed suddenly this week, causing a furious reaction from parents.

Beacon Education Trust, which runs Danesfield Church of England School, Williton, gave no explanation for the closure save ‘staff shortages’.

It intended to reopen the 363-pupil middle school by Monday (July 8) for the remaining two-and-a-half weeks of the school year.

Danesfield Middle School, Williton.
Danesfield Middle School, Williton. (Google Maps)

The Free Press understands headteacher David McGrath has left the school and deputy head Kate Swannack has not been at work for some time.

Separately, Rob Lakin has left his post as chief executive of Beacon, which also runs five other schools and nurseries in West Somerset.

It was also reported that Danesfield had been suffering an exceptionally high turnover of staff in recent months,

Parents were informed by email on Monday of Danesfield’s sudden closure and were told that all trips planned for this week were being postponed.

It prompted an angry backlash against the school as parents were left at short notice to make childminding arrangements.

Some accused the trust of letting down their children’s education and pointed to the anomaly of not being allowed to take pupils on holiday during term time because of the damage it would cause to their learning.

Danesfield School, Williton, deputy head Kate Swannack is understood to currently not be at work.
Danesfield School, Williton, deputy head Kate Swannack is understood to currently not be at work. PHOTO: Beacon. ( )

Others took the opportunity to complain that teaching for special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) pupils at Danesfield had been failing for some time.

Beacon Education is currently merging with the Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust (BWMAT), a process due to be completed next month.

The merger was ‘encouraged’ by the Department for Education, which was concerned about the trust’s capacity, and followed ‘termination warning notices’ issued for two other schools, Minehead Middle and Minehead First, in February, 2023, and September, 2022.

A Danesfield spokesperson told the Free Press parents were continuing to be kept updated on arrangements being put in place to reopen the school.

The spokesperson said: “We are working closely with our new partners at BWMAT to resolve the immediate staffing challenges we face and to bring long-term stability to the school.

“A new temporary management team is currently going through the necessary pre-employment checks and, in the meantime, we are continuing to advertise for a new head, for which we have already had some encouragingly strong applications.

“We fully appreciate the challenge of arranging childcare at short notice and are deeply sorry for putting this added pressure on parents and carers.”

In its latest inspection Ofsted said despite improving since the previous visit Danesfield still ‘requires improvement’ and it highlighted weakness in the support for SEND youngsters.

Danesfield takes pupils aged nine to 13 years and will break for the summer holidays on Wednesday, July 24.

Last December, Kingsmead School, in Wiveliscombe, had to close for different year groups each day during its final week of the term.

Headteacher John Eddy said at the time the closures were because of increasing levels of staff absences caused by illness which resulted in concerns over safety and the school’s ability to provide a ‘positive education’.