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Sunday, 18 April 2021 16:59

Halling Primary School: Latest Developments (Part Two)

Update 19th May: The headteacher, Ms Selmi has now resigned as headteacher, further information to follow. To clarify, the Aletheia Trust has been engaged to carry out an investigation on behalf of the Regional Schools Commissioner, not write a Report for parents. However, I anticipate the main findings will be shared.  

Update, 19th April: Welcome news: It appears that Mrs Woolmer,  the much-loved Head of Reception at Halling who left the school at the end of last term, has been persuaded to return by the new management. This morning, the first day of term, she opened the school gate for children. What an important signal that things are changing for the better. 

I begin with an apology to all those followers who have no special interest in Medway primary schools, although my recent articles about Fairview and Halling both have considerably wider implications than for the two schools themselves. At Fairview, as far I can establish, this is the first time that a Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) has rejected an application for academy status anywhere in the country in recent years. It now looks increasingly likely that this decision was primarily because the RSC recognised a rogue Governing Body, as explained here.

Halling

However, this article is about the second school, Halling Primary, part of the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust. After the RSC had arranged for an investigation into the running of the school at the request of the Trust, this took place in the last week of the Easter Term and, on Friday last, parents were sent a joint letter from the Chairs of the Cliffe Woods Trust and of the Halling Governing Body. This letter informed them that the headteacher of the school ‘has taken some time away from school for personal reasons’, and the responsibilities residing with the headteacher position will be shared, at least through Term Five, by two other primary school headteachers.

I have documented the issues through three previous articles, most recently here, and so this article unpicks some of the content of the letter. It is unlikely we will be told the precise reasons for Miss Selmi’s absence from the school, although we know it will be for at least the next term.

 In other similar cases, the headteacher has been placed on ‘gardening leave’  to allow for their position to be clarified. This can lead to an agreement for their departure. In the meantime, it appears that the Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust has effectively been placed in charge of the school. One can only speculate on the role if any of the Cliffe Woods Trust which bears considerable responsibility for allowing the current situation to develop. ‘In the interim, and until more detail is known, the responsibilities residing with the headteacher position will be shared by Mrs Heather Overton (Monday to Wednesday) and Mrs Karen Trowell (Thursday and Friday). Both are experienced primary headteachers and have worked closely together in the past. I will also be supporting them and the rest of the team in school’ (‘I’ being Mr Muggeridge, CEO of the Cliffe Wood Trust). Both are connected with the Aletheia Trust, Mrs Overton having previously been head of Gateway Primary School in Dartford, is a Director of the Trust, and described as a consultant. Mrs Trowell is the current headteacher of Sutton at Hone CofE Primary School, an academy within the Trust. 

‘In the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing with you EPM’s outcomes and indeed what the Aletheia team, the Governors and the Trustees see as the next steps for Halling Primary School’. Education Personnel Management is an independent company supporting schools, that also works with Aletheia. There is a wide range of next steps from simply supporting the current headteacher and offering advice, through to re-brokering Halling Primary with another Academy Trust. I think the first is most unlikely given the complete breakdown in trust, resulting in such a large turnover of staff, and parental unhappiness. As to re-brokering, Cliffe Woods Trust has proved incapable of managing a second school and so this would make sense, although parents understandably are going to be concerned about going from out of the frying pan into a fire. It is unlikely that Aletheia, an Anglican Church Trust, would be interested as currently they only have church schools as members. The RSC currently has a view that where schools are joining existing Trusts, these should be the larger ones, in order to benefit from the expertise on offer.  

Whatever, the urgent need is to rebuild the school following its exodus of teaching and support staff. For myself, I believe that the school will be in very good hands for the immediate future, and that those responsible for it should be trusted to make decisions in the interest of Halling Primary School. 

Last modified on Sunday, 06 June 2021 23:59

11 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 22 April 2021 10:29 posted by Peter

    FROM PETER READ
    Please note that the Headteacher of Halling Primary School 'has taken some time away from school for personal reasons'. She has not left the school at this time as some comments below suggest.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 22 April 2021 08:32 posted by Anonymous

    Thank you Peter for shining the light on the terrible situation that the headteacher had caused during her time at the school. Having Mrs Woolmer back was so key for both reception classes as she is one in a million and just loves making our children happy whilst at school.

    Next, is Mrs Mauldon who should be offered the headteacher role as she is also someone that was very well respected within the school and would be a ideal headteacher.

    It’s a really shame that other teachers and the teaching assistants have had to suffer and be forced out of the jobs when all they wanted has our community school filled with our lovely children to be taught and have fun along the way. Hopefully some of them can come back to the school knowing that the headteacher is now gone.

    Lastly, the independent investigation organised by the Regional Schools Commissioner has really opened the eyes for the independent team. They learned very quickly from speaking to the parents and ex staff that what was being fed to the governors and to cliffs woods academy and then to the Regional Schools Commissioner was a very different picture with a number of people especially the headteacher not being honest with the facts because it would reflect badly on her and all parties involved up the chain to try and brush this under the carpet.

    The fact the headteacher has gone, the school can now shift gear into making the school great again and rebuild the union being the school and its community, for which the children now more than ever need to flourish.

    Very happy outcome and thanks again Peter for bearing the torch so so many of us and our children!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 20 April 2021 22:43 posted by Anon

    Peter, thank you so much for providing your platform, your expertise and the opportunity for Halling Primary School to survive. Without your work, I truly believe we would not have got this far. Such welcoming news for everybody in the community.
    I will be forever grateful for your work in helping this school get back on track. Onwards and upwards!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 20 April 2021 22:26 posted by Parent

    The relief felt by the majority is more than apparent. I’m so pleased that Mrs.Woolmer has decided return, what a well needed moral boost for the school and the children. Now the school can slowly rebuild to a happy place for the staff, parents and most importantly the children. Well done to everyone involved, you have done a sterling job. Peter you have provided a unique platform for which this has all been possible, thank you.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 20 April 2021 15:22 posted by Ex-employee

    Peter, thank you for being the voice of parents, ex staff and others. I have worked with children and families for a long time and have always been driven by wanting to make a positive difference, this we have done together. It is tremendously sad that so many people have been impacted negatively over the past year, but collectively we have righted a wrong, I wish all the staff, pupils and parents at Halling a happy future once again.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 20 April 2021 10:12 posted by Furious Halling Resident

    Thank you Peter, for all you have done for the school and its wider community. It has been truly uplifting to hear, see and feel the buzz around the village again, particularly with the news that Mrs Woolmer has returned. This, in itself, speaks volumes.
    And, how great that Mr Muggridge has finally got round to communicating with parents/carers!
    With his history of supporting HPS’s Headteacher, I sincerely hope that those temporary Heads don’t allow him anywhere near. How insulting that he feels he can provide support to experienced heads when he clearly had no expertise in guiding Miss Selmi through the error of her ways. Likewise, I hope he doesn’t go anywhere near the staff, judging by how he thought it to be normal for a mass exodus. With the apparent lack of transparency throughout this whole debacle, I can only deduce from his comment regarding support, that he has misunderstood what support will be provided and that HE and his Trust will be the ones receiving support and guidance from AAAT.

    Onwards and upwards!

  • Comment Link Monday, 19 April 2021 13:34 posted by Anon

    You have been a glimmer of hope to so many when they thought they had none, to this I thank you. Your input has been greatly appreciated. The fact that you listened to people when their concerns were falling on deaf ears for far too long speaks volumes for the type of character you are and you can tell you care about the well being and development of the children who have ultimately suffered during this troublesome time. Once again thank you and keep up the exceptional work. Best Regards

  • Comment Link Monday, 19 April 2021 13:26 posted by Drew Peacock

    When I saw the letter I have to say I danced around the kitchen with joy, and my dancing is awful, as my kids can vouch.

    And to see Mrs Woolmer back this morning was such a welcoming sight.

    My only small regret is it’s taken so long and the school has lost many good staff.

    “Ding dong the witch has gone”

  • Comment Link Monday, 19 April 2021 12:42 posted by Chrissy

    Well Done Peter

  • Comment Link Monday, 19 April 2021 10:23 posted by Grateful Halling Parent

    What a joy to see Mrs Woolmer welcome the children again. Thank you Peter for all you have done for us. PETER: My great pleasure, but there are many others who have contributed.

  • Comment Link Monday, 19 April 2021 07:28 posted by Heather

    Congratulations Peter, on once again forcing these issues out into the open. Sadly the local newspaper is way behind the curve and still getting it wrong, whilst you appear to be driving the story.

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