A piece in yesterday’s Times:
A head teacher has been suspended after suggesting that some of her staff were sitting at home doing nothing during lockdown.
Pauline Wood is being investigated for potentially bringing her school into disrepute during a radio interview. She has been head of Grange Park primary in Sunderland for 15 years, taking it from inadequate to outstanding.
She said some teachers were working hard “coming up with the most imaginative, amazing things” but that others “sit at home doing nothing — I won’t defend those people.” Asked if that included teachers at her school, she said: “Yes, I think it’s time we talked about the elephant in the room.”
The school governors suspended the head after a complaint that she made “potentially disparaging comments” about her staff. She was told this “raised serious concerns about your professional conduct and judgment . . . which potentially brings the school into disrepute”.
Ms Wood told the Schools Week website: “It is very concerning that a head teacher can be suspended for giving a truthful answer to questions posed by members of the public.”
She was working out her notice and due to leave in September, but fears her success will now be tainted.
During the interview on BBC Radio Newcastle, the interviewer read out texts from parents concerned about the level of support schools in general were offering their children. One said the idea that all schools were working hard to help pupils was “simply wrong”.
When asked to comment, Ms Wood said: “Yes, some teachers have been in [schools], but many have not been in at any time. Safety is paramount, but don’t make out teachers have all been working flat out.”
Asked about her own school, and whether it was her job to motivate such teachers, Ms Wood said: “I think a lot can be done, but it’s down to individuals. It looks very simplistic, but you’ve got lots of HR rules, regulations, unions and people can say all [sorts of] reasons why they can and can’t work.”
Mary Hodgson, chairwoman of the school governors, told Schools Week that she could not speak about “personal circumstances as it would be a breach of confidentiality”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that head teachers should be able to give their perspective and insight to the public via the media.
Ms Wood’s school has a higher than average proportion of children on free school meals and with special educational needs or disabilities.
In the latest inspection of the school, Ofsted said: “The relentless way in which the head teacher and senior leaders pursue excellence and improvement has an extremely positive impact on pupils’ outcomes while maintaining very high staff morale.”
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