Demoralised by special measures tag

15th November 2002 at 00:00
ALL but one of the eight full-time teachers at Martindale primary have quit since the Hemel Hempstead school went into special measures. Pupil numbers have plunged, from 220 to 150.

This term as it celebrated shaking off the failing tag after two years, its headteacher, Jill Litchfield, said that placing schools in special measures was a seriously destructive process.

She said: "The staff here were totally demoralised. We do not see what is to be gained from our difficulties being made public."

She praised the help given by the education authority and admitted special measures had improved the quality of teaching and learning in the school. It was not unusual for the staff to work 70-hours-plus per week to satisfy inspectors' demands.

But Mrs Litchfield said the public shaming had been humiliating: "It was a seriously destructive process. Although we appreciate the school needed extra support, it has left us with scars and casualties. The public condemnation was the worst part. And it is difficult for failing schools to attract staff."

Phil Goss, a former head, said his career in school management was destroyed after inspectors said there were "serious weaknesses in his leadership" at Ickburgh special school in Hackney, east London last year.

He is now working as a teacher in the North-east, but is angry at the blot on his record and wants greater opportunities for right to reply.

"It is striking how many people do not want to talk to me about it, as if I have committed an offence," Mr Goss said.

"When an inspection does not go well it is assumed the head will crawl under a stone to avoid further public exposure. It is hard not to feel scapegoated for much wider failings..."

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