A HEADTEACHER who oversaw the transformation of one of Blackburn’s oldest fee-paying schools into a free school has left to take up a new role in the United Arab Emirates.

After nearly 10 years Simon Corns has said goodbye to students, staff and parents at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (QEGS) to become head of the prestigious Brighton College in Abu Dhabi.


Claire Gammon will take over as acting head, the first woman to hold the post in the West Park Road school’s 507-year history.

Mr Corns, 58, joined QEGS in September 2007 and has overseen the growth of the four to 18 school from 478 students to 1,035 following its conversion to a free school in September 2014.

The father-of-two said: “The discussions leading up to the change, the whole process and after effects of that work have been fascinating.

“The great moment leading up to it, there was a real sense of working collaboratively with governors and focusing on what we could do for children locally.

“The fact you can do more if you are bigger that is the most exciting and significant thing that has happened during my time here.

“It has been a huge success. We are now at 1,035 pupils and we were at 478.

“In other ways the most gratifying thing is to watch pupils come in and be completely engaged and to buy into the style of education we have. Their parents have been very supportive.” He praised students and parents for the way they have got involved in extra-curricular activities including football and netball in Lammack on a Saturday morning.

There have been bureaucratic challenges, however, with Mr Corns particularly incensed by the schools’ appeals process.

“People know they can only appeal on the basis of us not having applied our policy properly but we get a huge number of appeals based on convenience for the school. Every time they do it it costs us money and takes up time. I would like to see a system where you are charged if your appeal is not upheld.

“We have had to deal closely with the Department for Education and the Education Funding Authority which has been a learning curve - for them as well because we are a different model of school being an all through four to 18 school.”

Praising the pupils, Mr Corns, said: “They are a fantastic bunch of people, they are friendly and helpful and have all sorts of talents.

“We have had pupils join the sixth form who have done brilliantly in debating and sport. If there is talent we can bring it out. There are countless examples of pupils that have gone on to do interesting things.

“They are prepared for university. They have that self-discipline and the confidence to speak and engage with other people. They are resilient which is a really good thing.”

Mr Corns added he will miss the friendliness of QEGS. “It is an immensely friendly and welcoming place and I do not think the changes could possibly have happened if that had not been the case. I know the school will be in safe hands with my successor who has been here for a long time and understands the ethos of the school.”

Mr Corns will take up his new role in the new year.