Believe it or not, struggling Purcell School gives its staff a pay rise

Believe it or not, struggling Purcell School gives its staff a pay rise


norman lebrecht

December 09, 2013

Message from the embattled head, David Thomas:

For the benefit of those not at yesterday’s Staff Forum, this email is to confirm that all staff have been awarded a 1.5% pay increase from January 2014.
Although the school’s finances remain very tight, with many demands on our resources, the Governor’s (sic) believe that it is important to recognise the contribution that staff have made and continue to make to the success of the school.
In making this award, the Governors would like to thank all staff for their efforts this term, and particularly for the way in which you have dealt with the many changes which have taken place since September.
If you are not able to be part of the various end of term events, I do wish you a happy and restful Christmas.
Hanging over this happy and restful Christmas is the dismissal of the Head of Music, Quentin Poole, supposedly because this music school could not afford a head of music.
purcell school


  • Constanze says:

    In my job, this sort of pay rise, ‘in line with inflation’ happens annually, and that’s for an education charity with tight finances. Inflation is currently (I think) over 2%, and might change soon, so 1.5% isn’t bread and circuses.

    Gove only sanctified a 1% increase earlier this year, but I don’t know how this works with schools like Purcell, which must be private?

  • Halldor says:

    Well, at least they’re trying to do something right – though in real terms, of course, a 1.5% rise is effectively a cut.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Is this really a pay increase or a partial adjustment for inflation?

    “The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) grew by 2.2% in the year to October 2013, down from 2.7% in September.”

  • Simon says:

    Norman, as inflation is running at 2.2%, you could in fact argue that the Purcell School have given their staff ONLY a 0.7% pay cut.

  • former pupil says:

    So, lets get this absolutely right………..

    The reason for deleting the post of Director of Music at a specialist music school was not because the school claimed they couldn’t afford the post, as we have all been led to believe by the Governors and Mr Thomas??

    So, now one has to ask the obvious with news of the above……..

    What was the REAL and TRUTHFUL reason Mr Poole was dismissed, if it wasn’t to save money? as the school have wrongly led us and the media to believe?!

    This whole saga stinks of whitewash and cover up, like so many institutions these days when their deceit catches them up.

  • John says:

    Clearly ‘former pupil’ is not aware that in any financial prognosis an allowance has to be made for salary rises in line with inflation, as the first four contributors above have made clear, and the restructuring involved more than simply the loss of Mr Poole’s job. The school has also made it clear that it DID have to save money: from its press release “Sir Roger said that the restructuring had come about as a result of the need to reduce spending significantly in the light of ‘the frozen grant from the [government-funded] Music and Dance Scheme, lower pupil numbers and rising costs”. So what exactly is ‘former pupil’s problem? The modest staff pay rise is entirely consistent with needing to reduce management costs to save money.

    • J says:

      ‘John’ is right that the school has to save money somehow, and as the four contributors above mention this is a real terms cut to staff pay, dressed in Christmas tinsel – perhaps as a form of pacification? ‘former pupil’ is correct, however, to observe that the loss of the Director of Music had more to do with internal politics and intrigue on the part of the headmaster and governors than with the school’s imminent financial oblivion (although when has the school ever not been on the edge of imminent financial oblivion?) The headmaster, governors and ‘John’ (whom I suspect falls into one of these categories) have, however, failed to deceive anyone with any knowledge on the subject. That I believe is former pupil’s problem, it is my problem (I am also a former pupil) and it is the problem of almost the entire Purcell community, who almost unanimously opposed this politically motivated ‘restructuring’ [read: ‘backstabbing’].

    • visiting teacher says:

      Who is John trying to delude – himself??

      You can try to dress or whitewash this serious admission all you like, but the fact remains, the school clearly have found (had?) more money than they claim to have to save to make this pay award. In the current recession, what financially unstable employer can suddenly find ‘spare’ money to make such a large award, unless of course, it has come from a redundant salary?

      The mantra, ‘the school DID have to save money’, is contrary to the school finding a large amount of money to fund two new Deputy Headmaster posts, (which don’t come cheap), retained in employment at the school, ALL the other five ‘redundant’ senior managers in identical/similar roles, visibly been seen spending excessive amounts rebuilding/refurbishing school accommodation to house the two deputy Heads (one of course, being the former Director of Music’s house enjoying an expensive makeover), and the school still continue to waste money on a daily basis by employing an expensive outside catering company, and continue to waste resources and energy by leaving unchecked lighting and heating on 24/7.

      Significantly, let it not be forgotten, if the school hadn’t had to pay off excessive amounts of money to silence a dismissed Headmaster and Head of Boarding a few years ago, and Governors didn’t waste money building new boarding houses they couldn’t afford or need,(having to borrow huge loans to financially stretch the school further), then it is highly possible the school today may be solvent, financially secure, and wouldn’t have had to threaten the musical education, standards and reputation they have now lost in the wider musical and educational worlds.

      Ah, but a little sweetener (in the form of a long overdue pay rise immediately after the first chaotic term without their hugely missed Director of Music, may just start to appease those many unhappy staff, encourage them to forget the past, come on board and finally accept the new musical regime led by a benevolent Headmaster and Governors……… What a good plan!

      • J says:

        The new boarding house was unfortunately a necessary expenditure at the time to stop the school from being closed down due to regulations not being met – this was acknowledged even by some of the most astute of skeptics. But ‘visiting teacher’ is still correct to say that large sums of money have been wasted needlessly by the school, and the new boarding house above all needn’t have been so expensive were a more savvy (and less ‘Crooked’, shall we say) bursar managing the project. This is not to mention all of the other unnecessary costs cited by ‘visiting teacher’, all of which are entirely correct. The school could easily have found the savings necessary to keep the Director of Music if it had tried, but the fact remains that it chose not to because certain individuals maintained vested interests. Let’s hope that the court hearing next year will officially uncover some truths, although unfortunately I think it is reasonably safe to anticipate yet another slick cover-up.

  • visiting teacher says:

    Maybe the school SHOULD have been closed down when regulations were not met?

    Certainly, the school managed to deceive the visiting Independent School Inspectors at the time, by making sure the Boys Housemaster remained ‘off sick’, conveniently ‘loosing’ the boy’s Complaints book and only allowing ‘polite’ rather than outspoken’ pupils to speak with the Inspectors about the discontent in the boy’s boarding House, which has seen three different housemasters try to get it sorted in the last three years.

    I think J has also actually hit the nail on the Head ( as it were).

    The persons ultimately responsible for this whole financial mess is The Bursar, Aideen McNamara, who together with Governor Martin Saunders advising on Financial matters, pushed the school financially beyond it’s means, in order to make themselves both look good in their roles.

    Did Peter Crook, (who appointed Ms McNamara) know she had left a Language school she was financially running in St Albans to the deficit of £70K before she was appointed Bursar of Purcell school?

    Did ex Mayor of Hertsmere, Martin Saunders, really think pushing through the cost of building a new boy’s Boarding House, just because rival music school, Chets had one, really help finances, when the school was still struggling and being forced to borrow huge loans to pay of a new Music Centre?? (readers not believing this claim, can look at the school annual financial statements readily available to anyone on line).

    Maybe Mr Saunders is seeking an OBE like the school’s former Chair of Governors, (responsible for mistakenly appointing Peter Crook), Graham Smallbone, OBE, who, surprise surprise, got the new boarding House named after him. (as the Smallbone Library at Oundle School where he was a Headmaster).

    Like the announcement yesterday re the scandal at Lloyds Bank, and of late, Barclays & RBS etc, it is high time these people were made accountable for their actions and poor financial decisions, as it is their fault this school has now come under such scrutiny.