Letter to schools is branded as bullying and confrontational

A hard-hitting letter from a county education chief telling headteachers that mediocre and complacent leadership is no longer acceptable for the area’s schools has been branded confrontational and extremely negative.

The backlash comes after correspondence sent by Northumberland County Council’s corporate director of children’s services, Daljit Lally, to all heads in the region.

The document, which was leaked to the Gazette on Friday, sets out ways to improve educational standards following a string of Ofsted inspections, resulting in a number of schools and the local authority criticised.

In north Northumberland, two of those schools – Alnwick’s Lindisfarne Middle and St Cuthbert’s First in Amble – were put in special measures, meaning they are failing to give pupils an acceptable level of education.

In the letter, Ms Lally states that a conference held earlier this month confirmed some of the views expressed by outside parties about the county’s educational system, which has been branded inward looking, unwilling to embrace change and lacking leadership.

She says that there will be a review of the senior leadership team and of school improvement and support services at the council.

Plans are progressing to improve leadership and capacity in school support.

There is also set to be a county-wide pupil testing system introduced within this academic year.

But, in respect of schools, the letter warns: “Mediocre, complacent leadership and outcomes which are poor or just adequate are no longer acceptable.

“Where schools take decisions or act in ways which are not in the interests of pupils or where schools do not start to improve or continue to ‘coast’ we will take decisive actions.”

She adds: “I do not intend to run schools, I intend to hold you all to account for running yours. I will ensure that I have within my team someone who can advise on teaching standards and good practice but I will expect you all to deliver to the high standards that I will set.”

But the letter hasn’t been well-received by all headteachers. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has branded it bullying.

It means that in just over two-and-a-half years, our readers have raised more than £36,000 for three charities operating in north Northumberland.

Gazette editor Paul Larkin said: “This is a fantastic achievement for SHAK and another great success for the Jam Jar Army, which really highlights the generosity of you, our readers.”

But the fund-raising doesn’t stop here. We are continuing to collect jars full of coins for SHAK to raise as much money as possible.

Then, at the start of next year, we will open up the nomination process for next year’s beneficiary, which again will go to the public vote.

Until the new campaign starts, we want readers to keep on collecting their pennies for SHAK.

Full jars can be dropped off at the Gazette office, on Bondgate Without, Taylor’s newsagents or the Lions bookshop, both Bondgate Within, Alnwick.

l SHAK is also set to receive a boost from an unlikely source – dog-fouling fines.

As part of Northumberland County Council’s zero-tolerance approach to dog fouling, there has been an upsurge in enforcement activity in 2013.

So far this year, 74 fines have been issued and the money raised is now funding the council’s 2014 dog rescue calendar, from which all the proceeds of sales are going to dog charities across Northumberland, including SHAK.

Stephen Wylie said: “Another great calendar, with so many faces we’ve helped throughout the last 12 months, and we are grateful to the council for including SHAK. We value our close working with public protection’s animal welfare team.”