Staff 'share blame' for poor report

Frances Rafferty

An industrial tribunal which ruled a headteacher was unfairly dismissed after his school received a poor inspectors' report, saying that the staff should also "share the blame" has set a precedent, according to a union leader.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his members were increasingly being subjected to disciplinary procedures following poor reports by the Office for Standards in Education.

He said: "The judgment shows that in the wake of an adverse OFSTED report all the staff should take responsibility for putting right what is wrong and the responsibility cannot be shuffled to the head and the rest of the staff refuse to work with him."

The 1993 OFSTED report said that pupils' unsatisfactory achievements at Jerome primary school, Cannock, Staffordshire, gave cause for serious concern. It concluded: "The curriculum offered does not meet the national curriculum requirements. The management is weak."

Ken Knowles, the headteacher, was later dismissed, not over lack of competence but due to a breakdown of relations with the staff. The governing body was told by the staff that they did not have confidence in the head to turn around the school.

The tribunal found that the governing body should have made its decision to dismiss Mr Knowles after further reports. Staffordshire county council have paid him Pounds 13,460 compensation, but he has not been reinstated.

The conclusion of the lengthy tribunal report says of the staff: "Since they were all part of the teaching body they had to share the blame which they seemed unwilling to do.

"All were aware of the difficulties in addressing the requirements of the national curriculum. All were aware of the rigorous inspection that took place. All were surprised at the severity of the report. We do not feel that their subsequent reaction to the applicant (Mr Knowles) did much credit to them. "

Mr Hart believes the judgment sends a serious message to governors. Just because they are faced with a staff united against the head, as good employers, they should try to ensure that the two parties try to right what is wrong rather than as a reflex dismiss the head.

Paul Blake, the National Union of Teachers official who represented staff at the school, said: "They feel very, very upset that an industrial tribunal is seemingly trying to lay some if not all of the blame on them. I was representing the views of the staff who believed the head was not capable of turning the school around after a damaging OFSTED report.

"A new head has been appointed and the future of the school now seems brighter."

A spokesman from Staffordshire council said: "Despite what the judgment says, when you have 10 staff who can't work with one, then it can't be the 10 who go."

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