Entire school staff quit after Ofsted's damning report

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The Independent Online

The entire staff of a junior school, including the headteacher and deputy, have resigned in an unprecedented reaction to a damning Ofsted inspectors' report.

The entire staff of a junior school, including the headteacher and deputy, have resigned in an unprecedented reaction to a damning Ofsted inspectors' report.

A headteachers' leader said the decision of inspectors to fail Moor Lane Junior School in Chessington, south-west London, was diametrically opposed to the view of the local authority and its inspector who told the school only two weeks ago it was doing well. Ofsted said the school has "serious weaknesses" and failed to address its problems.

The case reignited the dispute over the pressures caused by Ofsted inspections, which teachers blame for several recent suicides. David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This is yet another traumatic experience, which raises fundamental questions about the Ofsted process."

Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, said he was tabling a Commons motion calling for the reform of Ofsted. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Given the atmosphere of pressure generated by Ofsted inspections and the workload that follows, as well as all the government initiatives, the resignations are understandable."

The 12 teachers who have resigned are bitter. Alison Pakes, who has been teaching at the school for nine years, said in a statement: "We all feel we have been treated appallingly by Ofsted and that our hard work and commitment has not been recognised in any way by them.

"We are left questioning the validity of the judgements made over such a short period of time by people who do not have to qualify or be accountable for their decisions."

The teachers have told parents they will be leaving the school at the end of this term.

Children playing happily outside the school in a respectable corner of south-west London yesterday seemed blissfully unaware of the turmoil inside the smart two-storey building.

Problems began in April last year when Ofsted said the school's head, Jane Wright, did "not significantly monitor the work of the school" and 15 per cent of the lessons were "unsatisfactory".

The school, whose pupils Ofsted says come from average backgrounds, complained the report portrayed it in a bad light and the complaint was partly upheld. But Mrs Wright resigned two months ago, blaming pressures put on her by the report's findings and the action plan inspectors had developed.

Deborah Stretch, whose nine-year-old son attends the school, said: "Next year is an important year for him. There are going to be all new teachers and they won't know the children or each other. It won't be good enough for a child in Year 6 who has to sit his Sats (Standard Assessment Tests). There will be chaos, I think."

Her husband, Chris, is angry with the school's governors. "I think they should have made more of an effort to persuade them to stay," he said. "We had a letter asking us to this meeting saying seven of them had resigned and when we got there, all 12 of them had gone."

Several of the teachers who have resigned have found more senior positions. Of the 16 lessons Ofsted inspected seven were found to be "good". John Braithwaite, director of education for Kingston upon Thames council, said: "We were working with those teachers and they were making some progress and we weren't willing to precipitate a second crisis.

"We certainly felt the school was making good progress over the year but clearly the two HMIs (Her Majesty's Inspectors) who came in didn't feel sufficient progress had been made, and the teachers were very disappointed and disheartened by that." A new headteacher and deputy have been appointed, with a special needs teacher to run the school's unit. Nine further appointments are to be made and Mr Braithwaite admitted some could be newly qualified.

Sally Scrivens, a Liberal Democrat councillor, who has a 10-year-old son at the school, said: "I felt [the Ofsted report] was totally unfair and unjustified. I feel more than irritated that they can destroy a school after coming down for just one week."

An Ofsted spokesman said the resignations were regrettable. "It is clearly sad if teachers feel they can't stay to put things right but the most important thing is the education the children are getting rather than teachers' own positions."

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