Shock resignation of head at fire-hit school

Photo Neil Cross'Headteacher Kathy McNicholas at Leyland St Mary's Catholic Technology College after the fire
Photo Neil Cross'Headteacher Kathy McNicholas at Leyland St Mary's Catholic Technology College after the fire
Share this article

The headteacher of a troubled comprehensive has quit – just six weeks before the end of the school year.

Kathy McNicholas was credited with raising Leyland St Mary’s Catholic High School from the ashes after a devastating fire in 2013.

However, although the school is now partially rebuilt, her recent tenure at the Royal Avenue facility has been dogged with controversy.

The school, which was one of the county’s first specialist technology colleges, was 
put into special measures following an inspection by education watchdog Ofsted last year.

Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education said that staff unrest has contributed to the “significant decline in the school’s

Some of the teaching staff staged a one-day strike and protested at the school gates over what they described as internal unrest.

The Ofsted squad said the visit revealed: “The leadership and management, quality of teaching and achievement of pupils are all judged to be inadequate, while the behaviour and safety of pupils requires improvement.”

A report compiled by four inspectors also pointed out that there was a “culture of mistrust and fear” between senior leaders and staff.

Phil Mooney, headteacher at Cardinal Allen Catholic High in Fleetwood, was brought in as executive head to oversee the progress made from the action plan put together by the leadership team, in response to the damning Ofsted rating.

Mr Mooney worked alongside Miss McNicholas, who remained responsible for the schpool’s day-to-day running.

However, governors have now announced she has

In a statement chairman of governors John Lumb said: “Her decision has come after two difficult years following the fire which devastated the school building and community.

“She has continued to work unceasingly with the Governors, Archdiocese and the local authority, and she has asked me to express her gratitude for the support she has received in dealing with what has been widely accepted to have been unprecedented difficulties since August 2013.

“She wishes the school Governors and staff, the parents and families, but most of all, the students of St Mary’s all the best as she moves on to new challenges.”

However, in a letter to parents Mr Lumb paid tribute to Miss McNicholas and said: “The role of headteacher is a difficult one and it should be noted that Miss McNicholas had the courage and foresight to help persuade the archdiocese and local authority to rebuild the school after the
2013 fire.”

In the same letter, Miss McNicholas said: “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the parents and families for all the support I have received as we have worked together with your children for the past three years.

“There have been many difficulties faced by us all since the awful fire in 2013 and it will still take some time for the school and community to fully recover.”

A 16-year-old and a 14-year-old pleaded guilty to causing the blaze and were sentenced at Preston Crown Court last November.

Mr Mooney will remain at the helm until a successor is appointed.

Miss McNicholas, was deputy headteacher and took over as head at St Mary’s from Mike Wright in 2012.

She was previously a science teacher at Holy Cross High School in Chorley.