Internet campaign ousts head accused of failing to clamp down on 'lawless behaviour'

10th September 2010 at 01:00
Much-lauded Martin Tissot steps in to tackle crime and violence at Haringey's lowest GCSE performer as school leader goes on 'leave'

The headteacher of a once-notorious London secondary has been parachuted in to help another crisis-hit comprehensive after locals launched an internet campaign accusing its head of failing to deal with "lawless behaviour".

Martin Tissot has stepped in at St Thomas More Roman Catholic School in Wood Green, north London, after the headteacher requested "special leave" following the anonymous campaign to oust him over alleged pupil violence and bullying at the school.

Campaigners, including parents and local business people, posted a video of pupils drinking vodka in the corridors and spraying champagne around the sixth-form common room to highlight their concerns. Other footage appeared to show pupils stealing from a shop and robbing a pizza delivery man. A blog set up by the group - Friends of St Thomas More School (FOSS) - said the poor behaviour at the school was preventing local Catholic parents getting a Catholic education for their children.

The group called for the resignation of the head, Dr Colm Hickey, and his two deputies, and has since welcomed the appointment of Mr Tissot as acting head.

Haringey Council said Dr Hickey is now taking leave for "personal reasons", but it could not say when he would be back.

Since 2006, Mr Tissot has been head of St George's Catholic School in Maida Vale, the school whose headteacher Philip Lawrence died from stab wounds after defending a pupil, and which has since gained "outstanding" status.

He is renowned for his tough approach to discipline, which includes Friday evening and Saturday night detentions. Miscreants are taught in mobile classrooms set away from the main school.

In a statement, Mr Tissot said he was "delighted" to be working at St Thomas More, which has a chequered history with Ofsted, going from "serious weaknesses" in 2005 to "good" in 2007 to "satisfactory" last year. It is the lowest performing school for GCSEs in Haringey, 60 per cent of the pupils speak English as a second language and a third of children have special needs.

Mr Tissot said: "I am determined to ensure that the school keeps on improving and am heartened by the commitment and support of Haringey Council, staff, parents, pupils and governors alike. With the senior team and staff, I will be completely focused on ensuring the climate for learning is appropriate and that the upward momentum of academic results is maintained."

Tony Brockman, Haringey secretary of teaching union the NUT, said: "The union has had long-standing concerns over pupil behaviour management at the school and we are looking forward to discussions with the new headteacher in order to address these."

The latest entry on the FOSS website says it is "continuing to press ahead" with its campaign to oust the deputy heads in charge of behaviour and safeguarding and child protection.

It said: "FOSS has been closely monitoring the unfolding events including the departure of both the chair of governors and the headteacher as well as the subsequent appointment of Martin Tissot of St George's School, as our new acting headteacher.

"FOSS is aware of Mr Tissot's outstanding track record and the initial positive steps already taken in regard to the shake-up of St Thomas More."

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