Victory for head hated by village

27th August 1999 at 01:00
A HEADTEACHER who criticised the poverty and domestic violence in the former pit village where she taught stirred up so much resentment she was forced out of her job by angry parents and colleagues.

Liz Donaldson, the 42-year-old head of Cambois first school, had compiled a confidential report for Northumberland County Council, to help the area win aid from the Government.

But the council published her report and the resulting headlines generated so much hostility that she resigned.

Now, two years later, Mrs Donaldson is waiting for compensation. An industrial tribunal has attacked the council for its handling of the affair and concluded she had been pushed out.

The village of Cambois is on the Northumberland coast eight miles away from the prosperous market town of Morpeth.

Mrs Donaldson's report said: "Cambois school dates back to 1897 and is large and crumbling.Its catchment area includes a number of cheap rented properties that attract problem families. Unemployment is high and many parents are very young.

"Many of the mothers come to school looking ill and, in the past three months, two have attempted suicide. Domestic violence is common and mothers also frequently come to school looking the worse for wear."

She went on to claim that 70 per cent of the children had single parents. Just 6 per cent of the pupils were at the correct reading age and many were on the child protection register.

Mrs Donaldson says she was shunned by other members of the staff while some parents threatened to withdraw their children and complained to their MP. Local people are said to have called her "the wicked witch".

"I was used to taking stress in the line of work I'd been in. That comes with the job," she said.

"But there is pressure and there is being ostracised and shunned by your staff and half of the community. How much are you supposed to take? I ended up being physically sick and I couldn't sleep with it all."

The tribunal found she had been unfairly dismissed and criticised the council for allowing a confidential report - given to them in good faith - to be published.

This exposed Mrs Donaldson to "suspicion and anger from parents, staff and governors among whom she lived and worked, thereby seriously damaging her professional reputation".

A council spokesman said: "The tribunal is now over and we want to move on." A decision on compensation is due in the autumn.

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