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York Minster head teacher steps down

09 November 2018

Alex Donaldson has left months after he was suspended over alleged safeguarding issues


The Minster School in York

The Minster School in York

THE head teacher of the Minster School in York has stepped down almost seven months after he was suspended over alleged safeguarding issues.

But the departure of Alex Donaldson, who has been at the school since 1988, is said to have “devastated” parents, who fought a lengthy campaign for his reinstatement, including demonstrating outside the General Synod meeting in York in July (News, 13 July).

The episode has caused a significant rift between the Minster Chapter, which administers the school, and parents. One parent said this week: “I am heartbroken by this news. The relationship between the Minster and parent body continues to deteriorate. Alex Donaldson was a wonderful head. He knew each child in that school, cared about their well-being and happiness, and worked tirelessly on making the school into a huge success. It looks as though he has sacrificed himself for the good of the school. It’s in keeping with his character for him to do such a selfless thing.”

The Minster school is a fee-paying day prep school for 180 children aged between three and 13. It was founded originally to educate choristers for the Minster, and about 40 of its pupils sing there today.

The parents believe that Mr Donaldson was a victim of a clash of personalities with the Chapter. Earlier this year, he declined a redundancy package, and in May, he and two other staff members were suspended after air-rifles and ammunition were found in an unsecured office. The two others were reinstated within weeks, but Mr Donaldson remained on paid leave, pending investigations of further unspecified allegations.

His departure was announced in a letter to parents on Thursday of last week from Canon Peter Moger, the acting Dean of York and chairman of the governors. In it, the Chapter thanked Mr Donaldson for his “significant contribution over many years as teacher, colleague, member of the Minster Choir and, latterly, as head”. Canon Moger added: “We wish Alex all the best for the future. The Chapter of York is committed to the flourishing and well-being of the Minster School and will now begin the process of recruiting a new head to build on the success of recent years.”

In a statement, Mr Donaldson said he was leaving “with great sadness”, but was aware that the uncertainty of the current situation had become unhelpful. He said: “I would not wish to do anything to jeopardise the school to which I have devoted so much of my life. I have always maintained that a school is not a collection of buildings, but rather the community of the people who work together to one common end: the nurture and development of the children in their care.

“My wife, Jane, and I have been deeply touched by the many messages of love and support, and acts of kindness, we have received over the last few months from parents and pupils, both past and present, from all around the world. This, more than anything, has demonstrated to me the success of what we set out to achieve, that the values that we sought to instil in pupils have endured into later life, and this is a worthy legacy for any teacher.”

A Chapter spokesman declined to comment or answer questions.

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