Head unseated by his own spin

24th March 2000 at 00:00
THE RESIGNATION of Torsten Friedag from Islington Arts and Media School (TES, March 10) exposes the damage done by the Government's policies for dealing with "failing" inner-city schools.

Staff at the then George Orwell school had to cope with pupils demoralised by bad publicity as a result of being "named and shamed". When the closure was announced, parents and pupils joined a vigorous campaign to save it. They saw the school as a supportive environment with staff committed to all their pupils.

Staff at George Orwell had repeatedly asked for money to be spent on the school and were consistently opposed. The then Blairite Islington council were prepared to let the school rot so that an example could be made under the Fresh Start scheme.

When the school closed, experienced staff were made to feel unwelcome. Some of those who applied for jobs were turned down. Rather than "benefiting" from new personnel, IAMS and the old George Orwell pupils suffered from lack of continuity and of experenced teachers with whom they had built up good relationships.

In the new school, stability and structure were sacrificed for soundbite and spin. The result was chaos - increased truancy, vandalism and discipline problems.

It was not a row over a bag of chips that defeated Mr Friedag. These fights occur in many school - it is a credit to staff and pupils at IAMS that things have calmed down since that fight in October. In the end he was a victim of the politics he embraced - the attempt to blame teachers for poor results rather than direct resources to where they are most needed.

There was an alternative - to bring new staff to work alongside those already in George Orwell without the chaos of reopening. Between them, staff, parents and pupils could have spent pound;8 million building a comprehensive with the interests of pupils, not political spin-doctoring, at heart.

Sue Caldwell

National Union of Teachers

Islington Arts and Media school

Turle Rd, London N4

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