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‘Did head teacher who made my life a misery receive a pay-off?’: ‘Bullied’ teacher attacks Hackney Council’s ‘wall of silence’

PUBLISHED: 16:49 18 April 2013 | UPDATED: 16:49 18 April 2013

Complaints against a controversial head teacher from Sir Thomas Fairchild School, who later resigned, were upheld in a preliminary investigation, it emerged this week.

The Gazette has seen part of a preliminary report compiled after interviews with nine members of staff at Sir Thomas Fairchild Primary dated from last July. It upheld grievances about Shona Ferguson’s aggressive and demoralising management approach, bullying, undermining, lack of respect, unreasonable workload and work-life balance, oppressive use of emails, as well as staff turnover at the school in Forsten Street, Hoxton.

Investigating officer and school governor, Janice Bailey, said: “Given my finding that the headteacher has behaved in an unacceptable manner, seemingly systematically over a period, there is also a case to answer under the disciplinary procedures.”

Resigned

An official investigation was never carried out by the Learning Trust, which ran the borough’s schools until last summer, because Ms Ferguson resigned.

One of the whistleblower teachers, who was forced to move schools after making a complaint about Ms Ferguson, is angry that a full investigation was dropped and says it is in the public interest to know whether Ms Ferguson received a reference and a pay-off.

The Learning Trust has refused to reveal this through a Freedom of Information request, saying it is confidential.

The teacher – who wishes to remain anonymous – contacted councillors but accused them of “closing ranks” after she was met with a “wall of silence”.

Elected mayor Jules Pipe again cited confidentiality as a reason for not disclosing the information, and cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Rita Krishna, told the teacher that she would take up the case if there was “evidence of impropriety” but dismissed the claims as “journalistic innuendo”.

The teacher said: “I do feel angry with Hackney that they have not taken this on board, they’ve just been so secretive about the whole thing.

“I believe that the wall of silence we are meeting now is evidence of impropriety, and would welcome the opportunity for someone at the council to disabuse me of this belief. We were damaged by our experience there, my career and my finances suffered for a while. I was lucky to find a job somewhere else.

“It affected me so badly health wise. I’d never suffered from stress before but I wasn’t sleeping at night, I was having nightmares.

“Driving into work I was having palpitations, I was constantly on the verge of tears. It’s hard to imagine because I’m a strong person. It was awful.”

Hackney Council refused to tell the Gazette whether Ms Ferguson had received a pay off and reference.

Cllr Rita Krishna said in a statement: “We cannot comment on the contents of the report due to the fact that it concerns an individual, which makes it confidential.”

The Gazette contacted Ms Ferguson for a statement but received no response.


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