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Thinking Schools Academy Trust appoints new interim CEO to guide its seven Medway schools

The academy trust responsible for seven of Medway’s schools has a new chief executive.

Stuart Gardner will fill the role at the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) on an interim basis, six weeks after our sister paper - the Medway Messenger - reported former incumbent Denise Shepherd had been suspended.

TSAT said the suspension was due to “an allegation from an individual”, following reports in a national newspaper that a whistleblower within the trust had raised concerns over her dealings with staff emails and an external inspection report.

Stuart Gardner
Stuart Gardner

Ms Shepherd said it had been an “enormously privilege” to act as the trust’s founding CEO for the past 13 years. She also thanked parents and staff for their support.

Mr Gardner, who is Director of Secondary Education at TSAT and a former principal at The Rochester Grammar School, said he was excited to take on the fresh challenge.

“I am looking forward to immersing myself in my new role, and very proud to be a part of TSAT,” he said.

Rochester Grammar School
Rochester Grammar School

“The Trust has made fantastic progress over the recent years and it is a privilege to have the task of providing our brilliant young people with the best possible education.

“We are a truly school-based partnership of schools, with a wonderfully dedicated and skilled staff and supportive parents who all share the ambition to improve the life chances of all children and young people.”

Mr Gardner has also previously worked as the Executive Principal of both Chatham Grammar School for Boys and The Victory Academy, leading them out of special measures. Ofsted recently recognised the quality of his leadership at The Victory Academy as showing “a very strong sense of drive and ambition for this academy”.

The Victory Academy
The Victory Academy

During this interim period, Mr Gardner will be supported by Claire Stevens, Director of Primary Education, and Lee Miller, interim Deputy CEO.

Trust chairman Peter Martin is confident that he has selected the right team to guide each of the schools in the right direction.

“Stuart is the ideal choice of leader for TSAT and will continue the Trust’s success for the benefit of our students,” he said.

Chatham Grammar School for Boys
Chatham Grammar School for Boys

“I have worked with Stuart for several years and seen at first hand how he has helped ensure our students across both hubs get the best possible education. He is an outstanding leader with huge experience and expertise, and we are very fortunate to have him on our team.

“TSAT is in a strong position to continue its purpose of nurturing successful children who are equipped to tackle their future with confidence and independent thinking.

“I would like to thank all our students, parents and staff for their continuing support and hard work – our children and young people are always our top priority, and we are proud that our staff have continued to deliver a first-class education throughout this period.”

Denise Shepherd, chief executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust
Denise Shepherd, chief executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust

Mr Martin also paid tribute to Ms Shepherd, describing her service as “outstanding”. He continued: “Ms Shepherd acted in the best interests of the children within her care at all times, and we would not hesitate to endorse her for a future role within education.

“The Trust undertook a formal investigation, into allegations of misconduct made against Ms Shepherd. This has now concluded, with no further action required to be taken. It is extremely regrettable that these allegations were leaked to the press by an unknown source.”

TSAT is responsible for running All Faiths Children’s Academy in Strood, Chatham Grammar School for Boys, Gordon Infant and Junior Schools in Strood, New Horizons Children’s Academy and The Victory Academy in Chatham, and Rochester Grammar School. It also manages four schools in Portsmouth.

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