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Parents' fears over departure of staff at Halling Primary School

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Concerns are growing among parents following the departure of several staff at a primary school.

Since January 2020, 15 staff members have left Halling Primary School, and parents say they want more answers and reassurance about the situation after complaints to the school and governors.

Parents are worried about the number of staff who have left. Stock photo
Parents are worried about the number of staff who have left. Stock photo

Parents speaking to KentOnline said they were scared to speak out due to the school's social media policy, but it was time the leadership answered criticism publicly.

And they said more action needed to be taken by the school, or the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust which has run it since April 2019.

The school's Board of Trustees said it wished staff well with their "promotions, relocations and changes of career". It said the pandemic had also played a part as people re-evaluated their lives and all but one position had now been filled.

One anonymous parent said other members of staff besides teachers had left and described it as "shocking turnover" for a small village school, while another said parents were "outraged".

Another said parents wanted to know how the school would address the issue, adding: "It's worrying as we've had staff members of all lengths of service leave and from different year groups. It's had a knock-on effect on the village as it's a community school."

Halling Primary School. Picture: Google Maps
Halling Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

In December, KentOnline's sister paper the Medway Messenger approached the school on the issue of retaining staff, and was told "it is common to see a natural turnover of staff when schools change status from local authority to independent or academy".

But since then, some parents have come forward to express their fears over the departures.

Long-serving former chair of governors Mark Tickner left the school after 25 years last summer citing "irreconcilable differences" with headteacher Souymaya Selmi.

In a scathing letter on his departure last June, Mr Tickner wrote: "Never in my wildest dreams thought I would leave under these circumstances or in a way where I would have been unable to say a proper farewell.

"I want to reassure you that my resignation was in direct response to an irreconcilable difference of opinion between Soumaya and myself, in response to references she made to me about my lack of support for her.

"I have always considered myself to be a very supportive person and during my role as chair of governors I genuinely believed that I have supported the school, staff and, in particular, the headteacher, sometimes to the detriment of my work and personal life.

"My resignation was in direct response to an irreconcilable difference of opinion..."

"So you can imagine my surprise and shock at being told otherwise in an email. After some very serious and careful consideration, I was left with no alternative but to tender my resignation, effectively bringing to an end my 25 year long association with Halling School and the huge part it has played in my life."

A letter to parents issued on Monday by Antonia Nunns, chair of trustees at the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust, said she wished to "reassure" parents after the situation had been presented in "a highly one sided and negative way" from parents speaking out on social media.

Mrs Nunns said when the Trust took control of the school there were "several important areas in which it was failing to deliver the standards and support that pupils deserve".

She said "improvements" implemented at the school had been "essential" and the "atmosphere within the school is now one of great enthusiasm and determination".

The letter added after "uncomfortable conversations not all have felt themselves either willing or able, even with support, to rise to the challenge of improving standards".

In a statement this week, trustees at Halling Primary School confirmed 15 staff had left the school since January 2020.

Referring to the staff departures the statement added: “We wish them well with their new promotions, relocations and changes of career. The recent pandemic has also played a part in their departures as people re-evaluate.

The board of trustees says there are 'exciting plans in place for the school'. Stock picture
The board of trustees says there are 'exciting plans in place for the school'. Stock picture

"All vacancies have now been filled, apart from one reception teacher post which we will be recruiting for.

"We are currently in the process of writing a social media policy and have asked parents for their input with this. The main aim of the social media policy is to ensure, before anything else, the safety of our children; some of which can be placed in real danger or their families in a vulnerable position should social media identify them or be used incorrectly.

"Their safety online is our responsibility as well as whilst they are in school with us. In hindsight, the policy sent out may have come across sterner than expected, but it needed to reinforce how seriously we do and need to take the matter. We will be mindful of this in our future communications.

"We have many exciting plans in place for the school over the coming months, all aimed at improving learning, development, building confidence and building on the community school it already is.

"It will take time to implement, tweak and report back on them, but we will be sharing our successes as they happen.”

The Messenger understands further staff have resigned in recent weeks and are set to leave the school this term.

The school's latest Ofsted inspection, carried out in June 2015, rated it overall as "good". Inspectors rated both the behaviour and safety of pupils and early years provision as "outstanding".

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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