Head of prestigious Fettes College in Edinburgh steps down over 'boarding-only' plan

Helen Harrison, who has been deputy head for more than ten years, is replacing Mr Stanford and will be the first woman to front the school in its 150-year history
Helen Harrison, who has been deputy head for more than ten years, is replacing Mr Stanford and will be the first woman to front the school in its 150-year history
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The headmaster of Scotland’s most expensive private school is stepping down after less than two years in the post.

Geoffrey Stanford took up the position at Fettes College in Edinburgh in August 2017 to become the 10th headmaster in the school’s 150-year history.

Geoffrey Stanford is stepping down as headmaster of Edinburgh's prestigious Fettes College "by mutual agreement" after less than two years in the post

Geoffrey Stanford is stepping down as headmaster of Edinburgh's prestigious Fettes College "by mutual agreement" after less than two years in the post

But parents of the 750 children at the £35,000-a-year school were told in a letter today that the Eton-educated headmaster would be stepping down by “mutual agreement” following discussions with the school’s board of governors “on the future strategic focus of Fettes”.

READ MORE: Private school fees: how much does it cost to send your child to an independent school in Scotland
He is to be replaced by Helen Harrison, who has been deputy head for more than ten years and will become the first woman to hold the post.

In the letter, Michael Osborne, chairman of governors, said: “We’d like to thank Geoffrey for all his efforts and for the integrity he has shown throughout his tenure.

READ MORE: Fettes College in Edinburgh has highest school fees in Scotland
“He has made a valuable contribution to the Fettes community over the past two years, including the most recent Scottish Care Inspectorate inspection, where Fettes was awarded ‘sector-leading’ across all assessed categories.

Fettes College. Picture: TSPL

Fettes College. Picture: TSPL

“This decision has been reached by mutual agreement and Geoffrey leaves with our very best wishes.”

Mr Stanford, who previously worked at independent school Sevenoaks in Kent and Pangbourne College in Berkshire, said: “The last two years have been incredibly rewarding, serving this remarkable school. It has been a pleasure to be part of a wonderful community that is full of warmth and energy, and I am now looking forward to my next challenge.”

However, insiders suggest there had been differences in opinion over how the school should be run.

A source close to the school said: “It’s understood that Mr Stanford wished to introduce a boarding-only approach for GCSE pupils and above, rather than maintaining the current option of admitting day pupils at that level.”

A parent, who did not want to be named, says there have been mixed feelings about Mr Stanford and his leadership.

The parent said: “He is Marmite to most of the parents. He’s a bit of an action man but not much action.

“There is a feeling discipline needs to be improved.”

Mr Osborne added: “We look to the future confident in the knowledge that under the leadership of Helen Harrison, supported by our highly experienced senior leadership team, Fettes will continue to thrive and offer an exceptional all-round education.”

Well-known Old Fettesian include former Prime Minister Tony Blair, actor Tilda Swinton, Lockerbie bombing trial judge Lord Coulsfield and fictitious spy James Bond.