Letter to schools is branded negative

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 on the back of correspondence sent by Northumberland County Council’s corporate director of children’s services, Daljit Lally, to all heads in the region.

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

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 was 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.

She also warned that ‘mediocre, complacent leadership and outcomes which are poor or just adequate are no longer acceptable’ and that action will be taken in cases when schools don’t improve or continue to ‘coast’.

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

Ruth Bull, of Glendale Middle School, said: “The letter is extremely negative. I am not convinced that this is the way of getting support of everybody in the county.

“This isn’t just down to the schools, but it is also down to the county not supporting them in the first place.”

Mike McDonald, NUT regional secretary, described the letter as strange and added: “It’s far better if you’re seeking to bring about change that you take people with you rather than drag them kicking and screaming.”

He branded it bullying and intimidating and added that the authority doesn’t have the power to implement tests.

However, Christine Graham, executive headteacher at Amble’s James Calvert Spence College, said: “I very much support the actions of the council and the new director of children’s services. Everyone who works in Northumberland wants the very best for our children and communities.”

The county council’s policy board member for children’s services, Robert Arckless, has backed Ms Lally.

He said: “She is the right person to help us through this issue. The letter was direct but there wasn’t anything in there that I disagree with. She is tough but fair. We share one objective – we want the best for all of our youngsters.”

Ms Lally told the Herald that the council is looking at a range of issues to help support schools and as part of this process, internal work is on going to ensure ‘we provide a positive response’. Schools will be advised on the arrangements in due course.