Teachers forced to quit after headteacher “bullied” them
07:10 27 April 2012
A Queen’s Park headteacher – who saw 11 staff leave within three months of joining a school – bullied teachers and caused them to become ill, according to an independent investigator.
Michael Larkin took over as interim headteacher of Wilberforce Primary School last September, but saw the majority of staff – who had been at the school for a combined total of 57 years – leave by the end of his first term.
Teachers claimed Mr Larkin made them carry out menial labour, work 13-hour days and set unachievable targets which resulted in a number of them taking sick leave due to stress.
An independent investigating officer, appointed by the school’s governors, looked at the teachers’ 17 allegations and upheld 16 of them.
Speaking about teacher Jasmine Ramkeeson’s complaints, the officer’s report states: “I uphold the allegation that the way Ms Ramkeeson was managed amounted to bullying and that this impacted on her health. I accept Ms Ramkeeson’s contention that the way the headteacher acted made her position impossible.”
The independent officer also said that Mr Larkin’s methods of serving Ms Ramkeeson with a ‘notice to improve’ made her “feel she was targeted” and was “unduly harsh and punitive”.
The officer confirmed allegations of bullying from other teachers, which he said were responsible for “subsequent ill-health”, and that teachers were asked to carry out “clearing, filing and cleaning” as well as “loading skips” for up to nine days at a time.
Westminster Teachers’ Association secretary Michael Parker, who is supporting four teachers at the employments tribunals, said: “We want to ensure that this man does not have the opportunity to do this to anybody else again, because we don’t think he is fit to manage teachers.
“Some headteachers can be heavy-handed but this is so far off the scale.”
Mr Parker also claims the General Teaching Council (GTC) said Mr Larkin is not registered with them, although the GTC was unable to confirm this.
Speaking on behalf of the headteacher, Westminster children’s boss, Cllr Nickie Aiken, said: “We take seriously any complaints brought by staff in our schools and support appropriate investigation processes before reaching any conclusions.
“Four members of staff from Wilberforce have made tribunal claims, but those procedures are not yet properly complete and it would be inappropriate for us to offer any view until they are more thoroughly investigated and finalised.”
She added that Wilberforce had been a school “with falling standards” which has made progress since Mr Larkin’s appointment.