The search for a headteacher to lead Cardiff’s new “super school” has ended.
Karen Gittins has been appointed to “develop the ethos and culture” of the new Eastern High School, which will rise out of Llanrumney and Rumney high schools.
The schools had been due to operate separately on the same site for a year, but Education Minister Leighton Andrews is currently considering whether or not to quicken the process and bring them together from September.
Ms Gittins, who has experience of “federating” two schools in England, will have a starting salary of £110,000 – plus a relocation package worth £5,000 – and will be responsible for fusing Llanrumney and Rumney under one banner.
Ms Gittins, originally from North Wales, is currently executive principal of the Gainsborough Federation – a cluster of two special schools in Lincolnshire.
But the schools are small by comparison and together house less than 200 pupils. The new Eastern High School is expected to have around 1,500 pupils.
Assuming Mr Andrews does not intervene, Ms Gittins’ job description expects her to “establish the values and approaches” needed to launch Eastern High School in September 2014.
But harmonising Llanrumney and Rumney brings its own challenges and the National Union of Teachers has warned of “deep-rooted, generational tensions” between the two schools affected by the proposals.
Parents and governors at Llanrumney have expressed concern that Ms Gittins will arrive cold to the historical differences – and that her current schools are much smaller than Eastern High.
Cardiff council said Ms Gittins, who studied at Cardiff University, has “vast experience” in raising standards and developing leadership potential.
For the first year of her time in Cardiff, Ms Gittins is expected to work alongside Rumney head teacher Gareth Cooke and Llanrumney head Dan Neal.
Cabinet member for education Julia Magill said Ms Gittins was an “exceptional candidate” for the role of school leader, having demonstrated excellent leadership qualities and vision.
Ms Gittins said she was “absolutely delighted” to be returning to Wales to lead Eastern High School.
“I am well aware of the challenges ahead but with a united vision and a clear focus on improving outcomes for our students, success is assured,” she said.
“I look forward to working with students, staff, parents and a range of partners in shaping current provision to raise standards as we prepare for a new, purpose-built learning environment which will be a flagship facility in the city.”