Consultants accuse council of cowardice

11th February 2000 at 00:00
THE FIRST private consultants employed to help a failing school claims governors and the council lacked the courage to rescue it.

Rams Episcopal in Hackney will now close and re-open in September under the Government's Fresh Start scheme, writes Clare Dean.

All staff at the school which was "named and shamed" within the first weeks of Labour coming to power will have to reapply for their jobs.

But the Centre for British Teachers, the company called in by the London borough believes the move would have been unnecessary had its proposals covering three key people been acted on.

"I feel really depressed," said Neil McIntosh, its chief executive. "Because neither the governing body nor the authority was willing to accept recommendations with regard to a minority of staff, all other staff will now lose their job."

His not-for-profit company had a contract with Hackney Council from September 1998 to July 1999 to support school improvement at the Church of England primary.

It initially seconded Marianne Harris as headteacher - she had previously only been an acting hed - and undertook an audit of the school's teaching staff which exposed serious weaknesses.

Various options, including the removal of one member of staff and two demotions, were not acted on, the company claimed. It added that"against the explicit advice of CfBT, a decision was made to recruit a new headteacher".

"We are entirely confident that the Rams school would now be out of special measures had those in authority backed us in making a small number of difficult decisions," the company said.

John Pridmore, rector of St John-at-Hackney and a governor at the school, acknowledged progress had been slow "despite the parachuting in of a high- powered private consultancy".

And he complained that since the school was placed on special measures in 1995 it had received no fewer than 12 visits from the inspectors.

"It is impossible to exaggerate how demoralising and debilitating this experience has been for the staff," Mr Pridmore told The Church Times. "There is something very Old Testament about the scrutiny of HM Inspectors. It is all judgment and no grace."

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