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Sympathy for outgoing head

The latest skirmishes in the teacher and parent conflict over disruptive pupils have exposed doubts over who has authority to intervene.

Karen Stansfield's remaining days as headteacher of The Ridings are perhaps the most difficult for the woman who was determined to create a thriving new school.

Her task was to cement the merger of two secondary schools - Ovenden and Holmfield in Calderdale, Halifax - and establish a comprehensive for 700 pupils. She described the job at the time, just 20 months ago, as an exciting challenge.

"You're starting out with something new and it's a chance to build, and I like schools where you have got to build," she said. "I like the kids we have got and I am committed to comprehensive education, having been through it, and I can see all the advantages.

"We're aiming for success for everybody at every level. They should be successful and they will be encouraged to be so. We have experienced staff who know the children extremely well and who are committed to the new school.

"The teachers and governors intend to work together to deliver a quality education which looks at high standards within a caring and disciplined community. We have got the staff for it and our pupils are our best resources. "

Last month, Mrs Stansfield handed in her resignation, saying she was exhausted and needed a break. Discipline in the school had broken down, said leaders of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, and her staff were threatening to strike unless 60 unteachable children were excluded.

Mrs Stansfield has refused to say more about her decision to go other than to add that she wasn't pushed and that she was disappointed with the progress the school had made. Pupils, she said, were being taught in cramped buildings with facilities that were inadequate to deliver the national curriculum.

There is understanding and sympathy for Mrs Stansfield as she remains in post until a new head is brought in. Some parents have described her as a "good woman who has time for everyone". Sheridan Walton, a mother of a boy and girl who attend The Ridings, summed up the general feeling.

She said: "She's a nice woman, but The Ridings is a dream that died for her; it just collapsed. It's a shame. But the school is too strong and too big. She didn't take on one school, she took on two and with it two lots of problems. It was just too much for her."

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