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KCC education adviser Simon Webb refuses to reveal why head teacher Jo Warnock is absent from St John's Primary School in Canterbury

By Lowri Stafford

Anxious parents are threatening to pull their children out of Canterbury’s troubled St John's Primary School after education chiefs refused to tell them why the head teacher is absent.

Jo Warnock was put on 12 weeks “agreed leave” last month and her name has been removed from the school’s website.

But during a public meeting at the school in St Radigund's this afternoon, parents came no closer to learning the truth.

Simon Webb fails to give parents answers
Simon Webb fails to give parents answers

KCC primary school adviser Simon Webb admitted that the meeting was only set up after news of Miss Warnock’s sudden disappearance was reported in our sister paper, the Kentish Gazette.

He said: "Miss Warnock has an agreed leave of absence. It has nothing to do with the progress of the school. It is a separate issue completely.

"I can’t tell you why she is not here because it is confidential. I can understand your frustration, but I’m telling you as much as I can.

Head teacher Jo Warnock
Head teacher Jo Warnock

"I can't tell if she is coming back or not. She is off for three months - it could be longer, it could be shorter."

Mr Webb assured parents that rumours circulating about the possible reasons behind her departure were "unfounded".

He continued: "This has absolutely nothing to do with safeguarding children. We have confidence in Jo as a head teacher.

Kent County Council primary school adviser Simon Webb
Kent County Council primary school adviser Simon Webb

"There are reasons which I’m not allowed to go into because I’m bound by personal and employment law."

But this failed to satisfy many parents who attended the meeting.

Some are preparing to move their children because of the uncertainty and lack of information.

One said: "The longer this goes on, the more we are thinking of pulling our four kids. The unsettling influence this is having is unacceptable.

St John's Primary School in Canterbury
St John's Primary School in Canterbury

"The Prime Minister wouldn’t be able to take three months off without telling anyone why."

Another parent said: "It would have been so much better if the school had come out and said what was going on instead of leaving us to read about it in the paper.

"The sense of secrecy and the fact that parents weren't told what was going on wasn't good.

"I feel that we need to know. We have been left anxious and nervous by the lack of information."

Parents signed a petition calling for Miss Warnock's return
Parents signed a petition calling for Miss Warnock's return

And a third said: "My daughter has been particularly unsettled by this change.

"How long will it go on for? Can't KCC sort out whatever the issue is and bring Jo back?"

Asked why Miss Warnock was not at the meeting, Mr Webb replied that she is banned from KCC properties while on authorised leave.

He added: "As soon as we know more, you will know more."

Last month, parents organised a petition calling for Miss Warnock's reinstatement.

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