A WIRRAL academy principal and his deputy have sensationally resigned after failing to unite staff from the two schools it replaced just over a year ago.
Officials at the University Academy Birkenhead confirmed they had accepted the resignations of principal Steve McMahon and vice-principal Sheena Shanahan.
It followed unanswered parent and union fears regarding the pair’s apparent absence since before Christmas.
Their resignations came just over a year since the academy opened to replace and resolve dwindling pupil numbers at secondaries Rock Ferry High and Birkenhead’s Park High, the school which Mr McMahon and Ms Shanahan had led.
The academy move was dogged by controversy from the start.
Within months of opening, students who had attended Rock Ferry High held a peaceful protest over redundancies of staff at their former school and parent concerns over the selection of teachers.
Park High staff far outweighed Rock Ferry employees at the new academy.
Parents and union officials also said the two teachers had mysteriously not been at the academy since before Christmas.
Despite repeated requests from the News, academy sponsors and governors refused to comment on a perceived lack of accountability or explain their absence, other than stating they had not been suspended.
But now the governing body, chaired by Birkenhead MP Frank Field, confirmed they had resigned.
In 2010 both schools were named in the country’s worst 200 based on woeful GCSE achievements, but exam performances have improved as an academy.
The governing body said although “a great deal has been achieved in a short space of time”, its aim of “achieving a fully united professional body of staff remains a key challenge”.
It adds the departed pair’s key tasks included bringing together the two “predecessor” schools and “creating this unity”.
It added: “Unfortunately and despite of a lot of hard work, this has proved more difficult than envisaged.
“For the good of the academy and its students, they have decided to step down now to allow other candidates to be appointed to ensure this critical move is successfully completed.”
Cllr Sheila Clarke, who chairs Wirral Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee, said: “When you have divisions and unease from parents, I fear this was inevitable.
“It is a recipe for disaster if three-quarters of staff are from one school and there is a perception that processes were not done fairly.
“Parents were not given an explanation on their absence before Christmas and the academy has a responsibility to keep them up-to-date.”
The governors plan to secure permanent replacements in time for the autumn term.
Read the full governing body statement on the Wirral News website.