Salve Richard Robson

On Thursday last, 19th June 2014, St Bede’s College in Manchester unofficially announced the appointment of their new head teacher, Mr Richard Robson who is the Deputy Head of St Joseph’s College in Reading.  Mr Robson was appointed to that post in 2011 after a teaching job in Basingstoke.  I understand is subject is drama and that he had trained at the Old Vic amongst other places.

St Joseph’s College in Reading has a similar profile as St Bede’s but is a much smaller independent school with only 256 pupils in the age group 11 – 18, roughly 66% girls and 33% boys  It has the same supposedly Catholic ethos has Bede’s, how that attracts would be parents I do not know because as we know Tony Blair is a Catholic and so was Tommy Duggan and it says the present head is a practising Christian whatever that means.  Let us just say that Joseph’s ethos is probably a little less severe than Bede’s.  About 33% of its pupils are Catholics but there were never many left footers down south any way.  They brazenly boast that their alumni include Miss Marion Faithfull and Miss Alma Cogan.  Two very pretty women but hardly anything to boast about.

St Joseph’s was a girls convent school until 2010 when it became co-educational so in the last four years it has gone through a series of great changes.  All its management team have been appointed in the last three years and although in that time its results in public examination declined it seems last year there was a slight improvement.  Let us hope they might have turned the corner.

Their latest ISI report says that the pupils are above average intelligence and the quality of teaching is described as good with no safeguarding issues.  It seems a nice run of the mill school with nice staff and nice pupils all being very nice to each other but Reading has always been noted for its niceness.

So everything looks good for Mr Richard Robson, who from the sound of his name must have had historic root in the North East of England where the ractising Catholics are known to be rugged and fair but take no prisoners.  I wish him well because by gad he will need all the luck that can be doled out.  I really do hope he is going into this job with his eyes well and truly open and I do hope the staff rally round him but I have fears about present senior management.  They bring an awful amount to the table that should not be there and hopefully this problem will be looked at first.

Mr Robson’s talents it seems stems from the stage and this grounding should have given him overflowing confidence which hopefully he can cascade down to his staff who have been woefully treated these last few years.  I really do hope that he is the man for the job and I really do hope he succeeds.  But what a job he has and it would be lovely to see whether his wise words will achieve anything with regard to chopping the dead wood at governor level but with Brain in charge it’s doubtful.

So I am upbeat and positive and long may it be that way after the debacle that has been Bede’s for the last few years.  However there are questions still to be asked but I doubt whether they will ever be answered.  How is it that such a senior position was able to be filled so quickly?  All done and dusted in a matter of weeks.  Surely this process must take longer just on a matter of notice alone, heads cannot be picked off a tree like apples, due process would normally mean a year between advertising and choosing and certainly this legerdemain by Bede’s as come as a shock to St Joseph’s who at this moment are only looking to fill the post of a Mathematics teacher.

Unless of course that it was known that kenless Kearney was a goner in January and that the scrawny arm of the Salford Diocese had started reaching out and fumbling with peoples lives six months ago when questions were asked and a few markers were called in because this how Bishops do business in the clerical world, furtively moving people around.  With one eye on the criticism that was levied after Kearney’s putsch in 2011 where no due process took place, it must have been decided that something reasonable had to be seen to have happened and therefore this sham of advertising, interviewing and selection was put out.  I wonder who applied?  Was there many candidates?  We shall never know but surely the parents are owed something.

So with that dirty cloud hanging over the appointment I would just like to welcome Mr Robson into the real world of Manchester and Salford education, a million miles away from the niceness of Reading.  This arena is where you sink or learn to swim very quickly, it might have been an idea for somebody to ride shotgun for him to watch his rear for sidewinders and backstabbers, they abound in leafy Whalley Range.

Let him think big, let him tread the boards like all the good actors knowing all the time that nothing is real, nothing is at all like what it says on the can. He has my  utmost support.  My artillery is trained on the governors of St Bede’s of which there is nearly as many as pupils at St Joseph’s College in Reading.

18 thoughts on “Salve Richard Robson

  1. Paul,

    I too wish Mr Robson all the luck in the world. His drama training will keep him in good stead – Bede’s is a place where nothing is ever quite what it seems to be, a little like stage, television and film.

    One minute the abandoned Barclays Bank on Silver Street in Bury town centre is just that, the next it’s magically transformed into the police HQ for the ITV series Scott & Bailey. Yes, all is never quite what it seems to be at Bede’s.

    We still have no idea as to the real reason for Kearney’s resignation, rather like the reason for Tommy Duggan’s sudden departure in 1966, it’s likely we’ll never be told.

    Also we have no idea whatever as to even the number of candidates for post of Head, it seems the appointment of such a senior position was made with relatively indecent haste. Furthermore, Mr Robson had only been Deputy Head for three years at St Joseph’s and it would appear he’s never been Queso Grande at a school before. Does that imply that no current head of a school applied for the post, as in any selection board this would be a massive plus for their application?

    If it’s correct that the Headmaster of St Joseph’s is currently ‘a practising Christian’, that does not tells us if he’s Catholic or not, it would appear this school in Reading does not insist upon its head being of a certain faith, unlike the Alma Mater.

    Yes, Mr Robson, rather like some overblown melodrama, the walls of St Bede’s College have for years retained dark secrets, some of which are in the public domain thanks to the conviction of one Rev Billy Green, some of which are yet to be revealed in the High Court in London.

    Let’s hope the new Head goes into this one with his eyes wide open, with someone watching his back at all times. The treachery with which Mr Barber was dispatched three years ago still leaves a nasty pervading smell that all was not and is not right at Bede’s. The one saving grace in all this is that the big prize has not gone to one of the co-conspirators in Mr Barber’s downfall. That surely would have confirmed, once and for all, that Bede’s management was rotten to the core.

    As I repeat often, let us not judge the man by his words, but by his actions. I sincerely wish Mr Robson all the best.

    Nunquam otio torpebat, Mr Robson. You’re certainly not going to have time to wallow in idleness. I can at least assure you of that.

  2. “How is it that such a senior position was able to be filled so quickly?”

    Perhaps he was the only idiot they could find who doesn’t mind a bit of career seppuku. A drama teacher, eh? I love it!!! Give them as much rope as they want!

    A practising christian is someone who rejects books and by accepting this post he also clearly rejects the internet.

    He sounds perfect!

  3. To Danny Malpas I Say:

    At least give the guy a chance. If he’s gone into this with his eyes wide open, he must either be extremely self-confident or an idiot, or maybe both.

    Time alone will tell us which. Let’s just be grateful the promotion wasn’t handed to one of the back-stabbers complicit in Mr Barber’s downfall. I think we can agree that would have confirmed Bede’s was continuing on a path of self-destruction.

    Also I would suggest he has an extremely difficult task in turning the College around from its current parlous state….

  4. Paul,

    I don’t really understand your beef with the school – I’ve tried to get to the bottom of it with a fair bit of reading through historical posts. I don’t write this as a challenge, I’m genuinely interested. It seems your issue is partly with the board of governors (now, I think, replaced) and also with a member of the church’s involvement.

    I can’t imagine that you’re one of the unfortunate people who have suffered historical abuse as your own daughter went to the school went on to do amazingly well, unless I read that wrong and confused the person? If she did go then why did you send her there?

    The ISI report I read before finding your blog – my impression on the issue of not properly checking out employees were admittedly unforgivable and it looks like this resulted in the dismissal of the previous head. That the majority of the board of governors were replaced shortly prior to the report is less clear.

    My interest is because we’re thinking of putting one of our children into the school. We’re not Catholic and thus have no experience of Catholic schools at any level. Our impression though, from taking a look at the school is that it had a genuinely warm atmosphere with every person, to a man, woman, boy and girl being friendly, respectful and welcoming.

    The fall in numbers may well be a specious argument given that there’s been a fall in numbers in enrolment to paid schools nationally – presumably as a result of the recession.

    I’ve not researched the average percentage drop in numbers over a meaningful period but I don’t know either how much by (or even if) St Bede’s enrolments have dropped, and over what periods of time compared to other similar schools. I should think that enrolment figures are also suffering as a result of state school’s performance being on the up. In which case, the partnership with MCFC could be considered innovative in difficult times rather than a desperate Hail Mary.

    We knew about the historic abuse beforehand and it didn’t particularly put us off. You’d expect (although unfortunately not as highlighted in the ISI report) that they’d be sharper than the average school on this and thus ‘safer’. But generally historic abuse wouldn’t taint an institution in my eyes, only the perpetrators, once found guilty

    As recent events are showing us, the past 50 years or so left a lot to be desired in terms of authority figures getting away with all sorts. Altrincham Grammar being a recent schooling example… Nowadays it seems more a case of which historical institution hasn’t got a scandal in its past.

    Anyway, it’d be interesting to read your thoughts on the above.

    1. Alun,
      Your comment is perfectly fair and circumspect and it needs time to answer which I will do in the morning. I am rather busy this evening but I will honestly reply in detail in the morning. You have offered me a platform which I have pontificated on at numerous occasions but which I will try to reason with you in the cold clear light of day.
      Thanks for your interest.

  5. Alun, a word or two of advice:

    There is perhaps no other person on the planet who would give you a more unbalanced and unhinged view of St Bede’s.

    Why not ask a Governor or one of the senior teachers these tough questions? It would, I am fairly sure, lead to a more accurate answer than Mr Malpas can provide.

    As a former pupil, I believe that it is the finest school that there is. When I was there, it pushed the brightest and weakest to their maximum and was not as exclusive (as in, it did not exclude as many people based on finances or less than sterling academic results at the age of 12) as other schools in the area. It also, and I am biased, turned out people with a heightened social conscience – I speak of friends and acquaintances rather than me.

    It has had its fair share of difficulties since I left, but still retains those core values. It is a fine school, not a trumped up exam factory.

    All you will get is poisonous blather on here I’m afraid.

  6. To Jinky Jimmy

    Nice to see you, to see you nice. Not really, still trotting out the old cliches of the sheer brilliance of the Alma Mater. Still as anonymous as ever, in both thought and word.

    What, pray, do you exactly think parents shell out £9500 per annum for private education? To be given, by ISI’s own tables, a less than average private education, if exam results are anything to go by. Unfortunately, that is the Number 1 criterion most parents use to select a private school, after all, it is one of the few things which can be quantifiably measured. Anything else is subjective, I’d argue.

    Check Bede’s web-site, this year only four students admitted to Oxbridge. Only last year, a certain Liam Kelly was bragging about the nine students who had recently gained places at said universities. In the dim and distant past, the figures were considerably higher, though rapidly falling roll numbers and the influx of part-timers will certainly have accelerated the decline. Since then, not so much bragging from LK.

    No, anyone wishing to send their child to Bede’s, ask yourself the many questions you need to. If it’s the Catholic ethos you look to, just observe the dysfunctional way Bede’s operates, heavily overloaded with dog-collars on its ever-changing Board of Governors. This is a structural fault-line embedded in the College, one which has yet to be corrected. Add in the Safeguarding Issues (ISI’s complaint, not mine or Paul Malpas’s, remember) and the picture for Bede’s doesn’t look so rosy.

    Then look at the rapid turn-over of Heads, something which has only become a recent phenomenon. Mr Byrne was there for around 20 years up to around 2008, Barber lasted only under three years before being unseated, the unlamented Kearney, chief architect in Barber’s downfall (during which,incidentally, the post for Head was never advertised) left under as yet unexplained circumstances, now Mr Robson. Four heads in six years – hardly indicative of a stable regime running the school, I’d suggest.

    I think I’d be spending my approaching £10K after tax on an institution which is a little more stable than Bede’s. This is a momentous decision for a parent to take, committing anywhere between £50K to £70K on a child’s education.

    On balance, I’d play it safe and look elsewhere, there are private schools far more worthy of people’s hard earned money than Bede’s. I’ve no particular axe to grind personally against the education I received over 40 years ago, but as JJ keeps reminding us, it’s not the same now. As to whether it’s worse or not, no doubt people will have their own opinion.

    At least everyone knows when I went there and, more importantly, who I am – such info on JJ we don’t have, nor do we know what particular axe he has to grind. For all we know, Mr Mysterious might be allied to the College, with a particularly monotonous line to trot out, ad nauseam, whenever Bede’s brilliance is questioned. He’s not surprised us again, for the umpteenth time.

    So at least the balance and a bit more realism has been brought to the table here. Care to comment on the rapid turnover of Heads, JJ, and spin your way out of it? I think ‘No comment’ might be your safest option here…..

  7. To Alun:

    Beware of taking notice of anyone who hasn’t even got the guts to say who they actually are. I don’t have this problem. Read on.

    My name is Paul Taylor, I’ve lived in Whitefield, I attended Bede’s from 1964 to 1971, did a degree in Applied Chemistry at Salford University and now run a small water treatment company, based locally.

    My education at Bede’s, whilst part of it I later came to realise left much to be desired, was on the whole, pretty good, especially in the 6th form. I can’t comment on the current standard of teaching, but the only quantifiable measure, I’m afraid, is exam results, everything else is, I’m sorry, just subjective tosh. In that regard, Bede’s does not fare very well.

    I came too late to miss the excesses of Monsignor Thomas Duggan, Rector from 1950 to 1966. We only overlapped for two years, after which he was mysteriously shunted off to Langho, a backwater north of Blackburn, where he died in December 1968. For most of the rest of my time there, the Rector was Fr Eric Riley, a man for whom I had a very high regard, so you could argue I was a bit luckier than my predecessors. The school was originally Catholic boys only, then became fee-paying in 1976, then admitted girls, then non-Catholics.

    Thus the place is unrecognisable from the College I left in 1971. One thing that sadly hasn’t changed is the overbearing influence of the Catholic Church in College matters. Bede’s has already had one convicted sex abuser, William Green (at Bede’s from approx mid 1970s to late 1980s, depending on which version you believe). He’s currently out on parole, having served half of a six year sentence and been de-frocked.

    The issue regarding Duggan and two other alleged abusers during his time there is still on-going and due to come to the High Court in London shortly, where between 15 and 20 victims are to sue to College for its failure to act. The College’s wilful failure to issue anything approaching a sincere apology regarding this matter disappointed me greatly. It sadly has the fingerprints of the Catholic Church all over it.

    I hope you take time to privately correspond with Mr Malpas, whilst on several occasions I have disagreed with him, I acknowledge that without his sterling efforts St Bede’s College would have got away with shielding at least three pederasts (sadly all of whom are now dead, but the only one so far with the damaged reputation is Duggan). During my time there, and for decades later, the existence of this abuse was kept completely hidden, at least from the students, only to surface much later.

    I would argue justice needs to be done and, as importantly, be seen to be done in this matter before St Bede’s College can move on. The black cloud currently hovering over Alexandra Road South needs to be lifted once and for all, but to date there is no sign of this happening.

    On that note, I bid you adieu….

  8. To all:

    I repeat, I do sincerely wish Mr Robson all the best in his new position. This is said without any trace of sarcasm, if he is allowed to make the changes he feels are necessary to improve the College’s standing, he deserves to succeed.

    I do not envy him in this Herculean task. This may be the best chance the College has had for some time to improve matters, as at least as an outsider he can view the problems within the College from an unbiased perspective.

  9. To Brian Lefley:

    Yes, Brian, we do, but I’d argue the current Head Honcho of the Anglican Church, by getting up the Coalition’s nose as regards food banks, is doing far more good for Joe Public in the UK than an Argentinian in his pomp in downtown Rome.

    Most fair-minded people would agree, I venture…

  10. There were 11 applicants and 5 were short listed. Me Robson is due to start in January but I am led to believe that they are trying to do a deal to allow him to start earlier

    1. I am amazed there was that many practising Catholics at short notice. It would be interesting to find out more but I can well understand the ground you are standing on. But thanks for that, it certainly looks like a third division management issue. So Mme Pike will have to flounder some more but she is a good sort.

  11. To Brian Lefley:

    Perhaps, like my one-time Bede’s Maths teacher Gerry Robinson, your attempts at sarcasm are way beyond my limited intellect.

    I did tell you that I was sure I saw the white smoke coming out of the chimney at the Vaughan building a week or so back, so perhaps we should all say together:-

    Salve Papa, Salve Robbo!

    and leave it at that for the time being.

  12. To Danny Doarn:

    Thanks for the info, no doubt kosher. If all the applicants had merely been of the Christian faith, rather than a practising left-footer as specified, I suspect the number would have been somewhat larger. Perhaps it was designed to keep the numbers down in the first place, the fact that it probably reduced the overall calibre of the candidates applying wasn’t factored in the College’s thoughts.

    I would have thought St Joseph’s would only wish to retain him for as long as it takes to find a replacement for Deputy Head – they may promote from within to fill the position – they’ve got all the summer break to get the advert in the Guardian and interview if they need to.

    I’d suggest Mr Robson needs to get his hands dirty (metaphoricaly speaking of course) at Bede’s as soon as possible. Bear in mind next January is more than six months away and a lot can can happen in six months – just ask David Moyes for a start.

    Yes, tempus sure does fugit, Mr Robson doesn’t really have the luxury of allowing S. S. Baeda to steam on rudderless for half a year. He needs to get a grip now if he has any chance of succeeding in his mammoth task.

  13. Pope apologises for past child abuse.British Government inquiry to INCLUDE Churches’ role in past horrors.”The world turned upside down?”

  14. To Brian Lefley:

    Launching an inquiry and getting to the truth aren’t necessarily the same. We’re up to 114 files missing from the Home Office, let’s not be surprised if there a few more.

    No doubt in most cases the high and mighty will have been protected and any incriminating evidence will have been spring-cleaned away a long time ago. Unless, possibly, the person concerned is already dead….

    I’m still recovering from nearly splitting my sides regarding the scarcely credible allegation that Leon Brittan tried to rape a woman in 1967. Talk about a smokescreen, is this another Lord McAlpine scam of accusing someone of doing something they almost certainly didn’t do in order to divert attention?

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