Head's 'accountability drive' made staff unhappy

29th March 1996 at 00:00
The head of a leading girls' grammar school has been heavily criticised in an inspectors' report amid claims that she intimidated staff.

Paula Haes, 51, went on sick leave shortly after the week-long inspection at grant-maintained Parkstone grammar in Poole, Dorset, last month. Unusually for a school with exam results among the best in the country, Parkstone has been referred to the Office for Standards in Education school improvement unit which will decide whether to make a return visit.

The inspectors' report now being studied by the unit praised the 878-pupil former independent school as "very good with some excellent features", but identified "serious weaknesses" in senior management.

It said: "Implementation of policies intended to raise standards has adversely affected relationships with some staff, pupils and parents and is leading to a climate where there is a lack of security and trust.

"Contributions of individuals to the school community are undervalued. Staff turnover in recent years is high, affecting continuity and progression for pupils."

Meanwhile, teachers' unions are planning to discuss treatment of staff at their Easter conferences. The ATL will call next week for action, while the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers wants improved management practices.

Former staff at Parkstone claim that Dr Haes was so zealous in her drive for the best results that she picked on staff and exploited their weaknesses. Insiders say teachers were terrified of being called to her office and often left feeling psychologically pummelled.

John Seldon, Dorset field officer for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers which represents most of Parkstone's staff, said he had received seven complaints from the school since he started the job three years ago. There had been several more complaints before that and a deputy headteacher had resigned on grounds of ill health.

He said he had paid more visits to the school than any other in the area, usually when staff faced interviews with the head.

Dr Haes denies she intimidated staff. She told The TES: "The governors and myself have brought a parents' perspective to the management of the school.

"Parents want good results for the children, good discipline, happy children and public money well spent. I believe that is what we were delivering until OFSTED arrived.

"I believe in accountability, efficiency and trying to create a well-motivated school. It's all about how to get good management principles into a school. All I do is call staff to account when I get parental complaints or when examination results are poor."

Innovations introduced by Dr Haes, who gained a masters degree in business administration last year, include a "total quality management" scheme for staff. The school was applying for a British Standards Institute Kitemark.

She said: "I have had a meteoric and highly successful career for the past 20 years and then this happens. I am a very frightened and shocked person. "

Deputy headteacher David Triplow said: "The report was superb with one exception. The staff are united but the girls are a bit concerned because it is a wonderful school."

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