Head's 10-year 'reign of terror'

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Disciplinary hearing told that aggressive school leader intimidated children, staff and parents. Oliver Luft reports

The head of a Church of England primary school is facing disciplinary charges following accusations that she presided over a 10-year reign of terror.

Vivette Ferguson is said to have waged a campaign against staff and pupils at St Andrew's C of E primary in Islington, north London.

She is also accused of nepotism and is now appearing before England's General Teaching Council facing charges of unacceptable professional conduct.

Chris Alder, presenting officer, said: "There was a pervasive culture of intimidation and aggression used by Mrs Ferguson.

"Schools are not to be run as closed institutions, as minor fiefdoms or kingdoms so that a sole teacher runs them without the proper redress."

The disciplinary hearing, in Birmingham last week, heard that from her appointment as head of the school in September 1993 until July 2003, she led an intimidatory regime.

A newly-qualified teacher left after just two terms because Mrs Ferguson was "making his life a misery".

Jacky Haynes, the school's senior administrative officer, said: "With Vivette, it was a case of'Do as I say and I want because no one can stop me.' The children would be really scared of her. They would be frightened to approach her. They would come to me rather than go to her."

The GTC heard that Mrs Ferguson would drag pupils out of assembly to shout at them, and pushed them so that they lined up properly.

Ms Haynes said Mrs Ferguson would single out pupils for unfair treatment, shout and be rude and aggressive toward parents in front of pupils.

On one occasion, she reduced a parent to tears when she tried to complain about Sue Bush, a teacher at the school and a friend of the head. And when Ms Haynes made a written complaint against a teacher for mistreating a pupil, she alleged that Mrs Ferguson failed to investigate.

Mr Alder told the hearing that Mrs Ferguson had adopted a policy of appointing friends and people she knew to posts at the school.

He said a member of her staff had described Mrs Ferguson's relationship with parents as "bankrupt".

She is accused of giving Naomi Sutherland, her daughter, a higher pay rise than other teaching assistants and paying her and a colleague for a holiday during term-time which should have been taken as unpaid leave.

The case against her also states that funding was granted for an out-of-hours club called Funbirds that was run by her daughter, though the club never took place. Funding is also said to have been claimed for an out-of-hours maths booster class which also never took place.

Cambridge Education Associates, which runs education in Islington, investigated complaints from staff and governors in the summer of 2003. Mrs Ferguson was suspended during the investigation.

The GTC hearing continues.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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