National Union of Teachers claims letter to Northumberland teachers was 'bullying'

The National Union of Teachers claims a letter sent to headteachers at Northumberland schools is threatening to its members

Northumberland County Council's corporate director of children's services, Daljit Lally
Northumberland County Council's corporate director of children's services, Daljit Lally

Headteachers are being ‘bullied’ and ‘threatened’ by a local authority seeking to improve standards at its schools, the National Union of Teachers claims.

As reported in yesterday’s Journal, a letter was sent out to teachers across Northumberland from the county council’s director of children’s services.

It said new tests will be introduced to monitor pupils’ progress as the current system was described as ‘inward looking’ and ‘lacking leadership’.

The message follows up a conference attended by teachers to deal with Ofsted’s swoop on 17 schools in the region and found in three quarters standards had dropped under their new grading system and four were placed in special measures.

Mike McDonald, regional secretary for the NUT, said: “I thought it was a strange letter for the authority to send to schools and not particularly helpful.

“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. This isn’t supportive. This is bullying, cajoling, threats and intimidation.

“The authority doesn’t have the power to implement tests. It’s not within their remit. I think if the tests were introduced it would be subject to challenge.

“We haven’t seen the detail of it and therefore it depends how they do it but I’m not aware the authority has that sort of power over individual schools.”

Brand new ‘non-negotiable’ tests set by the council are set to be launched this academic year and will be extra to SATS and other school exams. The council will also hold an internal review of the senior leadership team and school improvement and support services.

The council’s corporate director of children’s services, Daljit Lally, wrote in her letter, which arrived at schools just days before the end of term, that she intended to hold headteachers to account.

In a statement she said: “As a council we’re looking at a range of issues to help support schools following the recent Ofsted inspections.

“As part of this process lots of internal work is going on to ensure that we provide a positive response and we will be advising schools of the arrangements in due course.”

Mr McDonald said: “Perhaps this is a knee jerk response to the pressure but it’s not the best way of bringing about change.

“I want to reassure union members that if they need the union support we will do everything in our power to support them.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, yesterday said: “Tests do not drive up standards, great teaching and learning drive up standards.

“It also takes time to turn around a school – not hectoring by officials seeking a quick fix. When pressure mounts, great leaders inspire others to raise their game; in this instance council officials seem content to rely on coercion.”

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