Let me introduce you to a new group, a pressure group if you like, who have resolved not to pressure anybody as long as things are going along the right road. We are Friends of St Bede’s College in Manchester (FOBCIM) or FOBs for short
I set out in 2011 when Daniel Kearney was made headmaster of St Bede’s College in Manchester to right a wrong. Having received the trite note and a note was all it was, from Monsignor Michael Quinlan, once head of Governors at the school, to all parents to say that Michael Barber had gone and Daniel Kearney was in place, I smelt a rat. I smelt it straight away because of the speed of transition. Why? Because in the best run places that is not how things are done. The end of one headship and the start of another is a careful and predetermined programme of events destined for it to be seamless to the observer. It can last for a year or even longer whilst discovery of new and adieus of old take place. But this soft shoe shuffle by Quinlan and Kearney warranted careful inspection, in fact it seemed highly suspect.
More or less immediately my suspicions turned into definite evidence as I started to learn of what was happening at the school under the Kearney/Pike foremanship. All sorts of people were contacting me telling me of their disquiet with the way things were panning out. Time honoured methods were being changed for no apparent reason, experienced staff were leaving in droves, parents were no longer treating the place as a “must go to” for their children and those parents with children at the school found themselves caught in a trap. It not being the place they had signed up to years previously. They felt they had no say in their children’s destiny, in short they felt their fears were being disregarded, in fact ignored.
Over the years since that Kearney/Pike putsch in 2011 disaffected people have been contacting me, disaffected people very close to the school who could see the wood from the trees and were alerted by this blog. Concerned old boys, trapped parents and those not so trapped who had the ability to pull their children out of Bede’s and send them elsewhere and dare I say it, abused whistle blowers. Not of course sexually abused people but those who felt the quality of their professional lives had been downgraded since the new regime emerged. People within the aegis of the school who thought Kearney’s methods was an abuse of their personal and professional standards. People who thought they had a right to have their thoughts recognised.
These people did not become a group, they were individuals who saw the value of this blog and the power it gave them to fight back anonymously by reporting verbatim what was going on. None of them knew another but all had a common cause. Between us we achieved a fair amount and although we cannot take the whole of the credit for Kearney’s and Quinlan’s demise, our programme of disparagement of the duo’s behaviour must have helped. I know for a fact that Kearney was rendered dyspeptic by some of our revelations on occasions when if he possessed a cooler head he would have been better displaying it. No, I have to say they brought most of their bad fortune to the table themselves.
In the last six months since Kearney’s eventual protracted departure we have remained calm, we have discussed where we need to go and we have all decided to give the new head, Mr Richard Robson, a fair crack of the whip. At least his advent was not the result of a nefarious back-stabbing operation as was Kearney’s, albeit a risky and shabbily managed process that saw the school produce a new head out of a hat within the space of about six weeks instead of the normal lengthy process of discovery to ensure that the new choice is really fit for purpose with no attached baggage.
We, the disaffected individuals of yore are now bound up in a loose Association. We remain a cellular structure, nobody knows who the next man is, except for myself, they all remain anonymous but there is communication between ourselves using me as the channel. A little like that scary organisation at the turn of the 20th century in Ireland, the Irish Republican Brotherhood or the IRB as they were known. The difference is that we are not a bunch of murderers and rebels but just decent people seeking the truth and trying to help the disquieted.
We will over the rest of this school year observe, listen and say nowt, unless of course there is something that absolutely needs saying. Mr Robson looks a decent enough chap with no particular religious ideology like Kearney brought back from southern Spain with him. Our only worry is his lack of experience at senior management level at a seven or eight hundred pupil school which has or had a high level of success in public examination. At this level the head has to keep so many balls in the air, one moment of distraction can mean empty hands and no balls at all. Certainly however his early experience at stage school as taught him how to look the part, is early snaps at the College show him to be neatly turned out and fresh looking and in his opening address on the school website he did not appear to have the rabid dog mentality about discipline that Kearney portrayed in his preface in 2011.
We wish him luck because he will surely need it, the fabric of the school is rent with uncertainty and past experiences, with senior management jockeying for position in the new era and with a Board of Governors massively endowed with sacerdotal ineptitude, disgruntled former senior management and a sprinkling of trite nonsense with the likes of Helen West, who supposedly reported me to the English police, the Garda Siochana and Uncle Tom Cobley and threatened to close my blog down.
As an opening introduction we thought we, the loose association known as FOBCIM or FOBs for short would send him an open letter to tell him that we are on his side.
Dear Mr Robson,
Welcome on board the good ship Bede and we mean that sincerely because we know you have your work cut out to make a success of this daunting mission that you have set up for yourself. In a way your introduction to the school has been helped by the sterling work of Sandra Pike, who without the interference of the dummy chucker Kearney has managed to plug the hole in the keel of the school and steadied the sinking ship and brought it back from its almost terminal list. It is now limping along at slow ahead from a desultory stand by and its your job to get it full ahead by the end of the year. Excuse the nautical language but for three years that is what the school reminded me of, a large ship in a wallowing sea without rudder or power. The power has been returned and is awaiting your dynamic input. Every thing is in place for you to make a magnificent success of this voyage or fail miserably if your dysfunctional engine room lets you down.
Staff morale is low after a year of uncertainty and three years of inefficient tinkering and that probably is your first objective. It does not need saying that the College’s Safeguarding issues need to be met head on and the onus is more on good practice than lip-service as Kearney discovered. One real way of achieving this is by admitting to the historic sexual abuse of pupils of the College, holding up your hands and apologising wholeheartedly to the many hundreds of abused kids that have gone through the maelstrom of past College life. Reconciliation is the key. Admittance, acknowledgement and acceptance of the dark deeds allowed in St Bede’s College to my knowledge, from the late 1940s and up to and probably beyond the turn of the 21st century. In fact I doubt whether the problem has really left the school but Byrne and Moynihan will fill you in on the nitty gritty, if you do not already know. If that approach fails you can always come to this blog where we should be able to chat in confidence.
Be careful with your dealings with the Board, having 33% of the board as priests of the Catholic Church is about 24% too much in this day and age and the looming presence of those two erstwhile stalwarts of the College’s glory days, the said B & M, does not help. They were put there in 2011 by Quinlan to help Kearney in his nursery hour of need. Little help they gave him for all they did when the pressure mounted was to resign and were then brought back again to give Kearney his coup de grace. The shadowy and undeserving figure of Coffey as Vice Chair of the Board seems to give him more importance than he intellectually deserves but he is obviously there as an Arabic plant to ensure the Sheikh keeps his foot in the door of College life.
You will have been made aware of the disastrous path that Daniel Kearney trod helped in no small way by the behind scenes tinkering of the Diocese and its acolytes. So we suggest an arms length relationship with Salford and this new and not so nice and grim successor to the Brainless one, Bishop John Arnold, whose recent history suggests he does not take prisoners.
So the best of luck and we will support you wholeheartedly providing you do the right things and we will certainly give you time to ensure your blueprint becomes reality. But one final thing before we leave you in peace, or three as it turns out,
1. Why does Fr “Gus” Dearman still give his address as the school when the previous regime told everybody that he no longer resides there.
2. For heaven’s sake get somebody working on the College website, it is a disgrace and needs bringing into the 21st century.
3. Why is that erstwhile guardian and bully boy of the College, Fr Timothy Hopkins, the one time eyes and ears of Quinlan in College propriety, still skulking away in a private house in Crumpsall. With his past troubles behind him supposedly and his young age for him, would he not be better off performing parochial duties, providing he is allowed and giving the likes of those two honest to goodness servants of the College, Jack Rigby and Kevin O’Connor some respite from their duties, as they are well into their 80s now and deserve a little respect.
We hope you have a fair wind and a following sea.
Members of FOBs