Staff at fault for Manton school closure

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A headteacher and the warring factions on his governing body are largely to blame for bad management at a school closed for eight days over one disruptive 10-year-old boy, says a report published yesterday.

The head and governors at Manton Junior School in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, were so preoccupied in fighting their own battles that children's schooling suffered, says the report from local authority inspectors.

While governors breached the confidentiality of meetings, the head, Bill Skelley, withheld information from them and tried to dominate meetings.

Last night, Mr Skelley's union accused Nottinghamshire county council of trying to make the head a scapegoat for its own failings and for those of the governing body. Staff at Manton went on strike last autumn after governors twice overturned Mr Skelley's decision to exclude Matthew Wilson.

The dispute ended when the boy's mother, who denied that he was disruptive, agreed that he should go to another school.

The report says: "Relationships between the head-teacher and the governing body are unproductive. The work of the governing body and the strategic management of the school have been adversely affected by lack of information to governors, mistrust, and too little involvement of governors in the life of the school."

The "development of factions within the governing body only served to worsen the situation."

The governors, say inspectors, are divided into those who feel they "are unable to make an effective contribution because of the domination of the head-teacher" and those who are "uncritically supportive of the head".

The balance of the governing body should be reconsidered because the recent resignation of some governors means that the majority are now strongly affiliated to the staff.

"Governors need to ensure that they are always acting on behalf of the children of Manton and not uncritically backing staff proposals."

Pupil behaviour, which first brought the school into the limelight, is "sound and sometimes good". Discipline and bad behaviour outside lessons occurs because the school puts too much emphasis on punishment and control and not enough on praise and personal responsibility.

Relations between the head and staff are good, says the report, but it criticises them for insisting on retaining the maxi- mum number of teachers to keep class sizes low. "This has benefited staff morale more than pupil entitlement."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "I am deeply disappointed with the tone and partial content of the inspection re- port, in particular the summary.

"The full report points to the generally sound school policy development and the significant progress made in the last two years under Mr Bill Skelley's leadership."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, to which the school's eight classroom teachers belong, said: "The report confirms my impressions that classroom teachers were doing a good competent job in difficulty circumstances."