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Controversial headteacher quits Fortismere

PUBLISHED: 12:23 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

A HEADTEACHER who attracted controversy by introducing selection into Haringey s top comprehensive is leaving to lead a grammar school. On Monday, parents of pupils at Fortismere in Muswell Hill received a letter announcing that Aydin Ona

Charlotte Newton

A HEADTEACHER who attracted controversy by introducing selection into Haringey's top comprehensive is leaving to lead a grammar school.

On Monday, parents of pupils at Fortismere in Muswell Hill received a letter announcing that Aydin Onac would be leaving next summer.

After running Fortismere for five years, he will take charge of St Olave's Grammar School in Orpington, Kent, in September 2010.

In a statement from the school, Mr Onac said: "I will look back on my time at Fortismere with a great deal of satisfaction.

"With the support of governors and colleagues, we have transformed students' expectations, embedded a culture of academic excellence and achievement and provided a wide range of exciting opportunities within and beyond the curriculum.

"After five years, it is time for me to move on to new challenges, but I am confident that my successor will inherit a school in excellent shape, well placed to take advantage of opportunities for further development."

During his time as headteacher, Mr Onac has been credited with driving up academic results at Fortismere.

In 2005, 65 per cent of pupils achieved five A*s to C including in English and maths, whereas this summer, 75.5 per cent achieved this or higher.

But Mr Onac also cut a controversial figure in the community. First by striving for foundation status in 2007, giving the school economic independence from Haringey Council.

Then in September, Mr Onac, a mathematician and professional concert pianist, oversaw the first round of musical entrance exams for 11-year-olds to decide up to 10 per cent of first year places. Musically gifted children from outside the catchment area were invited to apply for a place.

The schools adjudicator Canon Richard Lindley ruled that teachers were not allowed to ask pupils to play instruments.

Canon Lindley warned that this could lead to children being offered a place because their parents had paid for them to have music lessons - rather than an innate talent.

Three parents contacted Broadway after the exam in October to say that their child had been invited to play an instrument during the test - although Mr Onac denied the claim.

Broadway understands that Fortismere governors are currently investigating whether the admissions criteria was adhered to.

Muswell Hill's Lib Dem councillor Jonathan Bloch said: "Aydin Onac will not be sorely missed by the community. He was the most divisive headmaster that could have been appointed to a comprehensive school in Muswell Hill.

"The governors should be hanging their heads in shame. Hopefully, the new appointment will mend fences in the community and make Fortismere the inclusive community school it once was."

Governors' chairman Jules Mason said: "We will all be very sorry to lose Aydin. He has led Fortismere through to foundation status and made a tremendous contribution to raising standards and achievement across the whole school. He will leave behind a strong and committed senior management team, well equipped to sustain and build on the improvements he has delivered.

"We are looking for a replacement who will continue what Aydin has begun, establishing Fortismere as a top-ranking community school and challenging students of all abilities to reach their full potential.

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