Published: 06:00, 26 November 2020
| Updated: 19:49, 26 November 2020
A school has taken the unusual step of publicly hitting back at a parent who complained about it closing because of a coronavirus outbreak.
An unnamed parent emailed Minster Primary School on Sheppey with 15 points “expressing concern” there had been a “lack of information” about a two-week “circuit break” and accused teachers of making the decision “without adequate checks and balances.”
The parent gave the school a deadline of last Friday to respond and added: “In the interests of transparency, I will be making both my request and your response public.”
The school is in Minster North, where 56 Covid-19 cases in a week from November 12-18 give the area a rate of 876.6 cases per 100,000 people, making it the third worst ward on the Island for rolling infection rates.
It sits behind Sheppey East (2,079.5) and Minster South (1,092.9).
Debbie Wheeler, the chief executive officer of the Island Learning Trust which runs the school in Brecon Chase, responded with a six-page reply giving the school’s reasons and then told the letter-writer the allegations were “offensive.”
She wrote: “This statement is offensive. The decision to close was taken thoughtfully following full consideration of a range of factors and significant consultation. I wonder why you would make an assumption due diligence was not carried out?
“We are experienced school leaders determined to lead our school with integrity and the very best of intentions. Indeed, Minster Primary School would not be the lively, thriving, successful school it is if the leadership were performing with an ill-considered approach to decision making.”
She went on: “Worryingly, if, as your letters suggests, you do not trust school leaders to fulfil their role with professionalism and integrity then I am not sure you made the right decision in choosing Minister as a school for your child.”
In the reply, which was published, she added: “We absolutely stand by our decision in the context we are currently operating in. Safety is, and must be, our overriding concern.”
In closing, she said she had been humbled by the “overwhelmingly positive messages” received from many other parents but added: “I am disappointed that as we all do our very best to navigate our way through a global crisis, you felt it necessary to write in the manner you did to question our ability to do the job we are paid to do.
“Replying to your letter is a distraction from our core businesses of educating, supporting and caring for our pupils, families and staff.”
The letter-writer wrote: “The closure of the school and absence of education for our children for a further two weeks on top of the months missed earlier in this year is a matter of significant concern. Very limited information has been provided about the basis of the decision.
“To maintain public and parental trust in schools and in the process, it is of paramount importance there is transparency and accountability for such a significant decision. One that will potentially have lifelong consequences for our children.”
The writer felt the decision made created a ‘worrying precedent’
They demanded to know the total number of positive tests for pupils and staff, and in what years, and documentary proof the Departments of Education and Health had agreed to the closure.
The school, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, is due to reopen on Monday after sending 331 pupils home. Its closure was decided over a weekend after 32 pupils were absent on the Friday with Covid-19 “issues”.
Mrs Wheeler said some staff were also absent and despite making contingency plans the school did not have enough to maintain safe ratios. She said immediate action was needed.