Former Queen’s Park school head hits back after mass teacher exodus

The former headteacher of a Queen’s Park primary school that has seen 11 teachers resign in three months has hit back at accusations that the school was in decline under her watch.

Last week, the Wood&Vale reported that the majority of staff at Wilberforce Primary School had left in just one term since Michael Larkin became interim headteacher in September.

Teachers criticised Mr Larkin for creating a “climate of fear” and parents have launched a petition calling for the new headteacher to be removed.

But school governors and Westminster Council have backed Mr Larkin, saying he is “raising standards” after a period “in which the school’s performance declined”.

Angela Piddock, who was headteacher for 21 years before retiring this summer, said it was upsetting to see people “rubbishing” the hard work put in by her staff.

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She said: “I have tried to keep out of it. But what really upsets me is that you had committed staff ready to change and work really hard to get better. There is no need to rubbish everything that has gone before. We served one of the most deprived parts of Westminster and for the community to lose teachers like that is just awful.

“I’m not worried about what the criticism means for me. But to knock the work done over the last 20 years is a bit much.

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“We may not have been top of the league tables but we aimed high and were committed to providing a broad, balanced curriculum.”

Wilberforce was rated “good with several exemplary features” in its most recent Ofsted report in 2008 despite more than 91 per cent of pupils speaking English as an additional language.

One teacher said: “On his first day, Mr Larkin told us the school was completely inadequate.

“The way he was talking to us was like we were children. He said he didn’t care how hard we had worked over the past few years.

“He has also described the school community as one of the rudest he has ever worked with.”

In a joint statement, Westminster children’s boss Cllr Nickie Aiken and the school’s chairman of governors David Evans said “change was difficult” but they were supportive of Mr Larkin.

The statement said: “While we recognise the years of valuable service that Angela Piddock has invested in Wilberforce Primary School, the fact remains that, in recent years, the school’s results have declined to the point where the council and governors have needed to take action.

“We are concerned that English and maths results have fallen, despite the efforts of the school’s committed teaching staff, and the school’s performance is now below the government’s floor standard of 60 per cent.”

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