Headteachers: Superhead drafted in after summer of problems

4th September 2009 at 01:00
One of the country's most successful heads begins his toughest challenge yet this week, taking over a comprehensive hit by strikes, sudden resignations, staff cuts and money worries.

Original paper headline: Superhead drafted in after summer of strikes, departures and money probes

A troubled summer has seen the departure of Haggerston School's head and chair of governors, an investigation by external auditors, and the removal of governors' powers to set budgets and appoint staff.

In addition, it emerged that a pound;1 million-plus budget surplus had been spent in a single academic year.

In addition, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who The TES has learnt has been brought in as executive head, will face the first of four days of strikes by teachers on Tuesday at the girls school in Hackney, east London.

The principal of neighbouring Mossbourne Academy was recruited after the shock resignation of head Maggie Kalnins.

Haggerston's last Ofsted report, in 2006, said Ms Kalnins had "re- energised" the school, but a series of problems has emerged over the past year.

The TES has learnt that last term the Hackney Learning Trust, which runs education services in the borough, commissioned auditors from accountancy firm Deloitte to review "financial procedures" at Haggerston.

In 200708, the school had a budget surplus of pound;1.3 million, which was gone by the end of 200809.

Steve Belk, the trust's deputy chief executive, said Haggerston's budget had dropped because of falling rolls, but spending was not cut at the same time.

He said this was one of the reasons behind a controversial staff "restructuring", which involves six teacher redundancies.

It prompted a series of NUT strikes and attracted headlines in July after a teacher was told she had lost her job in front of pupils at a school sports day.

At the end of term, the trust removed the school governors' delegated powers in a bid to "stabilise the school", which is due to become co- educational and expand its intake from 11-16 to 11-19 in 2010.

Mr Belk confirmed that the chair of governors had since resigned "some time in the summer holiday".

Asked why, he said: "I'm not really sure. The fact that we were putting pressure on the school to keep improving? Maybe he thought he had run out of steam. He has not done anything wrong."

A trust spokesman later added that the chair had resigned because "he thought it most helpful for Haggerston to be seen to have a new chair of governors".

Expected schedule

Sir Michael is expected to spend one day a week at Haggerston, supporting Barry Hersom, who has been drafted in as interim head from the Business Academy, Bexley.

Asked what he thought had gone wrong at Haggerston, Sir Michael said last week: "I don't know. I have not even been into the school yet. This all happened in the course of the summer holidays."

Mark Lushington, from Hackney NUT, said his appointment was "highly political".

"I have got nothing against Sir Michael, but this is such an obvious piece of window dressing."

He said the four days of strikes slated for the next fortnight would go ahead unless the trust agreed to talks over the redundancies.

The trust initially refused to discuss the Deloitte report. But later a spokesman said: "Concern was raised with the governing body about some of the procedures that were being followed by a member of staff. They (Deloitte) did a review of the procedures and came back to us with a report on that.

"There were weaknesses identified within the procedures which have since been rectified. But there was no impropriety or anything like that."

He said the governing body had been responsible for overseeing the "procedures" and the Deloitte findings had, in addition to the head's resignation, led to the governors' delegated powers being temporarily withdrawn.

Cometh the hours.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has form on helping pupils in tough urban areas fulfil their potential

Mossbourne Academy's first GCSE results show that 84 per cent of pupils at the Hackney school achieved at least 5 A*-C grades, including English and maths. Some 70 per cent have therefore met the entry standard required for Mossbourne's demanding new sixth form.

Despite suggestions that the academy's success is due to a more middle- class intake, 40 per cent of pupils qualify for free school meals and 30 per cent are on the special educational needs register.

Sir Michael attributes the results to an "easily replicable" formula of high expectations, zero-tolerance behaviour policy and close tracking of pupil performance.

But how will he juggle his new executive head role with his existing post at Mossbourne and his work as education director for academy chain ARK?

"With great difficulty," he said. "But I will try to do my best for all three."

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