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Windsor Protest Over Bisham School

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Windsor And Maidenhead Council Must Heed Well Attended Protest On 9th December Over Way Borough Has Used Powers At Bisham Primary School

The council needs to investigate the approach that has been taken and the unfounded generalised remarks suggesting that staffs are inadequate says GMB.

GMB, the union for school support staff, attended a candlelight vigil on Tuesday 9th December from 7.30pm in support of its members employed at Bisham Primary School in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. See recent GMB press release on issues at the school.

Last month the school was judged as inadequate and requiring special measures by Ofsted. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) is now using its power of intervention to oversee school improvement. How the council has used these powers has been subject to severe criticism by parents and staff at the school.

Frank Minal, GMB Regional Officer, said “Last night’s demonstration was successful and shows how strongly parents and staff feel about the issues involved.

The large numbers of protesters who gathered at Windsor Guildhall called on the council cabinet who were meeting inside to launch an inquiry regarding the shoddy treatment of the school that has followed an Ofsted report.

This included the suspension of the Head Teacher and council officers shooting from the hip regarding their commentary about devoted and committed staff. These off the cuff comments sparked anger from parents and staff alike.

The council needs to investigate the approach that has been taken and the unfounded generalised remarks suggesting that staffs are inadequate. There should be a full and through inquiry into the way that this matter has been handled.”

End

Contact Frank Minal 07713 079 930 Email: frank.minal@gmb.org.uk or Avril Chambers 07974 251766 or GMB press office 07974 251 823

Notes to editors

GMB press releases on Bisham school:

CANDLELIT VIGIL AT COUNCIL MEETING TUESDAY 9TH 7.30PM AT WINDSOR GUILDHALL IN SUPPORT OF SCHOOL SUPPORT STAFF AT BISHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL

Parents have no faith in the current temporary leadership or their ability to resolve any of these issues due to their lack of experience and their poor communication with parents says GMB

GMB, the union for school support staff, will be attending a candlelight vigil on Tuesday 9th December from 7.30pm in support of its members employed at Bisham Primary School in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. See recent GMB press release on issues at the school.

Last month the school was judged as inadequate and requiring special measures by Ofsted. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) is now using its power of intervention to oversee school improvement.

Frank Minal, GMB Regional Organiser, said “The vigil is to protest about the treatment of Bisham School by the Head of Children’s Services at RBWM, Alison Alexander, and her team and to ensure the Local Authority take action on a recently submitted petition by the Bisham Parents Action Group (signed by over 1,250 people) requesting an investigation into potential misconduct by Alison Alexander in her dealings with Bisham School.

https://www.change.org/p/the-rt-hon-theresa-may-mp-investigate-concerns-about-misconduct-on-the-parts-of-ms-alison-alexander-in-all-of-her-dealings-with-and-involvement-in-bisham-primary-school-bisham-berkshire

It is necessary that the union is at the centre of community issues that have a negative impact on our members. The situation at Bisham School is untenable and someone should be bought to account regarding the current misgivings of staff and parents alike. Enough is enough. I am asking that trade union members to attend this vigil in support of the community.

The petition was created following Alison Alexander and members of her team walking into the school at 3.15 on Friday 21st November, ousting the head of 29 years, Mr Jim Cooke, without warning or genuine grounds, causing great upset and humiliation to long standing staff.  Then, the locksmith they had brought with them changed the locks on all the external and internal doors – including putting a large bolt on the interconnecting door between the school and the schoolhouse where Mr Cooke and his family live.  All of this was done in front of shocked and visibly upset staff, parents, children and pupils.

The whole community strongly believe that Alison Alexander and her officers have acted inappropriately in suspending the Head and taking over the delegated powers from the Governing Body.

This goes alongside previous actions by Alison Alexander that parents have found unprofessional and upsetting such as leaking the news of the school being placed into Special Measures to the press before the school could release the news, and cancelling a school French trip 24 hours before children and staff were due to go – on grounds that were later to be found to be spurious by an external investigation. 

But what has spurred so many parents and supporters to now protest, is that despite Alison Alexander making public assurances to parents that she had no agenda with regards to Bisham, that she would work alongside the Head Teacher and allow the parents full consultation prior to any changes occurring, she has taken over the school without any discussion with the Head Teacher or mandate from the parents – and has caused wide-spread chaos and turmoil at the school as a result. Parents are also now seriously worried about safety at the school and concerned about the well-being of their children.

Since Friday 21st November the school has moved from being a happy and well organised, safe and well-functioning school, into a school where there are now two Interim Heads who have admitted to parents they were not briefed by RBWM on the situation they were walking into and seem to be totally out of their depth. 

As a result they are unable to provide any leadership or guidance to existing and temporary staff or any reassurance to very angry and upset parents on what the short and medium term strategy is for the school.

The children are now walking daily into a school where there are numerous different strangers – either temporary staff or Children’s Services team members - in the corridors and classrooms who are not introduced, whose purpose is not explained and who are able to come and go as they please.

Temporary staff have breached data protection and protocol on numerous occasions such as announcing the names of individual children and their special needs in front of their class and other parents.  Children with dyslexia have been publically identified and Years 5 & 6 pupils have been publicly criticised that they have not been properly brought up as they do “not speak properly” because they have accents or for the way they pronounce certain words. 

Some interim staff have lacked sensitivity in how they have spoken to children and parents during this difficult time – some have been rude and even hostile.  One of the interim ‘specialist’ teachers has also been seen manhandling an autistic pupil, much to the pupil’s obvious distress. They have not seemed to care about the insecurity and confusion they are causing by thoughtless actions such as completely re-arranging the layout and set up of Reception class – so that 4 and 5 year olds already coming into a class now taught by interim staff – and where there can be anything up to three other strangers from agencies or RBWM – are also having to deal with their environment looking totally different.

There are daily breaches of safeguarding policy such as children being allowed to be taken from the playground without prior arrangement and without any challenge from interim staff, not addressing genuine security issues relating to a child involved in a custody situation, no currently identified SENCO Special Needs Co-ordinator, no Chief First Aid person on site, not writing up of serious incidents such as fights or injuries during play, the gate between Reception play area and the car park being left un-padlocked, and breaking parking and safe reversing policy when there are children nearby (by Alison Alexander herself when she parked on the playground), and by interim staff conducting PE lessons around parked cars.

Parents and existing staff fear for the safety and security of the children.  They also fear for the emotional well-being of the children in such an insecure and at times hostile environment that Bisham has become in the last few weeks.  Not only is their education being disrupted – due to a complete lack of planning by interim staff and an inability to get on top of the current situation so that lessons and homework are patchy and no longer moving forward as they should be. 

But also – as a result of taking over the school without any proper planning, the whole community around the school is being destroyed. No thought seems to have been given to what would happen in the following weeks and at Christmas time when the caring and inclusive ethos of Bisham would normally be reaching out to people both inside and outside the school.

The longstanding buddy system where older children look after the younger children is being phased out, The Christmas Carol Concert has been cancelled, the Christmas Late Night Shopping Event has been cancelled, and The Carol Concert and Tea Party for the local Old Folks has been cancelled.  Many parents now fear that the planned Nativity Play will not go ahead. 

And parents were told last week by the Interim heads that they are looking into stopping parents coming into the school completely – thereby wiping out the wonderful village school set up that has been loved by generations of parents and children.  They say it is on grounds of safety but we believe that it is to stop parents witnessing the chaos in the school on a daily basis.

Parents have no faith in the current temporary leadership or their ability to resolve any of these issues due to their lack of experience and their poor communication with parents to date – many parents are complaining on a daily basis but nothing changes or gets any better.

We hope that due to the large number of official complaints to the Interim Heads, to local MP’s Theresa May & Dominic Grieve, to Ofsted and to the RBWM themselves – that this situation can be resolved as quickly as possible and that we will be assured that there will be no further hostile interventions by RBMW so that we can start to move positively into 2015 and return our school to the lovely and caring and successful school it was before the 21st November.”

Notes to editors

GMB PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR MEMBERS AT BERKSHIRE CE PRIMARY SCHOOL THAT HAS BEEN PLACED IN SPECIAL MEASURES AFTER OFSTED REPORT

The council seems to have descended on the school without a clearly defined plan to support teachers, support staff and children at Bisham says GMB

GMB, the union for school support staff, has pledged support for members in Bisham CE Primary School in Windsor and Maidenhead that has been judged as inadequate and requiring special measures by Ofsted.

Ofsted’s report criticises the school for 'weak' teaching, with 'too many' pupils not making enough progress, while teachers’ marking and feedback does not allegedly help the children improve.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is now using its power of intervention to oversee school improvement.

Frank Minal, GMB Regional Officer, said “GMB is challenging how the council has dealt with matters following the placing the school into special measures. GMB calls on all parties to work to work together calmly to drive forward standards of education.

The council seems to have descended on the school without a clearly defined plan to support teachers, support staff and children at Bisham.

Alison Alexander the Director of Children's Services has described staff and teaching as inadequate. The Head Teacher is currently suspended pending an investigation and the locks of the school have been changed. 

It would seem that the Council are shooting from the hip regarding their commentary about devoted and committed staff. These off the cuff comments have sparked anger from parents and staff alike.

Public criticism of staff before the council has had a chance to calmly assess the shortcomings the school is not right. It makes matters worse and is giving rise to growing anger.  There is also a need to assess the claimed 56 inaccuracies in the Ofsted report.

The way the council is dealing with this suggests that there is no clear strategy on how to proceed before suspending the Head Teacher or determining how this small primary school operates at a local level.

An interim Head is now on site alongside local authority officers. GMB call on them to work with school support staff, teachers, governors and parents to drive forward standards of education. GMB will support our members through these difficult times in the school”.

ENDS 

 

 

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