It is among the hardest jobs in teaching: leading a new academy
specifically set up to merge two segregated secondaries in Oldham, the
Lancashire town that experienced some of the worst race riots of 2001.
And the position has just got a little more contentious. This term has
seen the a More…ppointment of Nigel McQuoid, an avowed creationist, as the
academy's third head in less than 18 months.
Mr McQuoid - who has taken temporary charge at Waterhead Academy - came
into the public eye while running a number of academies for the Emmanuel
Schools Foundation, which faced allegations over the teaching of
creationism in science lessons. As the head of King's Academy in
Middlesbrough in 2004, he famously banned Harry Potter books from the
school library over fears that they could lead pupils into the world of
the occult and witchcraft. He has also spoken of his personal views that
the world was created in six days.
At Waterhead, Mr McQuoid has replaced David Yates, who stood down last
month, who in turn replaced Jackie Nellis, who left the role of principal
designate in August last year, just 10 months after her appointment.
The academy, sponsored by the neighbouring Oldham College, captured press
attention in 2010 when it was announced that it would merge two of
Oldham's most segregated schools: the predominantly white Counthill and
the largely Asian Breeze Hill.
The move was part of a strategy to break down racial barriers in the town,
which saw rioting in 2001. But one source close to the school told TES
there were "massive concerns" about the "controversial beliefs" held by Mr
McQuoid. "The major part of his job is to unite a largely white school and
an Asian school," said the source.
However, Oldham College vice-principal Susannah Tyson denied that Mr
McQuoid was using the school as a platform to voice his personal beliefs.
"It's absolutely not happening," she said. "Waterhead Academy is a secular
school and Nigel's personal beliefs aren't part of that."
Asked about concerns over the high turnover of headteachers in recent
years, the vice-principal said it "wasn't our choice". "David Yates chose
to leave. We were left to find a new principal and I think we've got the
best possible outcome to that. Nigel has experience of merging schools and
The school is based on two campuses, Moorside and Roxbury, with the new
academy building due to open in November next year. Ms Tyson insisted that
the current integration programme, which includes pupils from both
campuses taking classes together at least two days a week, was "going
But it has become clear that not everyone is happy. Mr Yates's departure
even prompted a Facebook campaign - "Bring Mr D Yates back to Waterhead
Academy", which has so far attracted the support of over 600 pupils and
The high turnover of headteachers - three in 18 months - has been met with
criticism from the NUT. "I always warned that academies would lead to
instability because sponsors are so independent and don't have ties and an
anchor to the local authority. Unfortunately, I've been proven right,"
said Tony Harrison, NUT Oldham branch secretary.
Teachers at the school are also "extremely concerned" at the ongoing
change, according to Mr Harrison. "They're thinking, 'Where is the academy
going? It has no direction.' The academy has new teachers starting this
week and they are finding themselves in a situation of instability. A
number of staff are looking elsewhere (for jobs)."
Mr Yates blamed "personal and professional reasons" for his decision to
leave. But whatever the details of his departure, there are clearly many
people both in and out of the school who wish he had stayed. If only for a
In May 2001, the Glodwick area of Oldham was the scene of one of the worst
race riots in the country. Taking place over two days, the riots involved
500 people and caused millions of pounds worth of damage.
The Cantle report, commissioned by the Home Office, found that the
violence was fuelled by the segregation of white and Asian communities,
and that many of the communities lived "parallel lives" and had never
mixed with people from different backgrounds.
Waterhead Academy, which will move all its pupils into a single building
in 2012, was created to help tackle the deep-rooted racial divisions in