Headteacher accused of bullying staff wins Ofsted backing for ‘inspirational leadership’

A controversial headteacher accused of bullying staff at a Queen’s Park school has been praised by Ofsted for his “inspirational leadership”.

Eleven teaching staff left Wilberforce Primary School within three months of Michael Larkin becoming head last September. Four of them have pending employment tribunal dates over claims for unfair dismissal.

An independent investigator has upheld allegations that the head bullied staff, made them carry out menial labour and caused them to become ill.

Last week’s Ofsted report rated the school as “inadequate” and served it with a notice to improve.

The inspector criticises the decline in pupils’ achievements prior to Mr Larkin joining the school, but praises the head for his “determined and skilled leadership”.

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The report states: “Throughout the school, pupils are not working at the level expected for their age in reading, writing and mathematics. Before the beginning of the current school year, the rate at which pupils made progress was inconsistent – these gaps are now beginning to close.”

Praising changes made since Mr Larkin joined, the report adds: “Since the beginning of this school year, wide-ranging changes to the way pupils learn, such as girls-only mathematics lessons, have brought about a dramatic rise in rates of progress.”

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It also refers to “inadequacies in teaching in the past” and Mr Larkin’s efforts to “reverse the school’s decline”.

Council’s children’s chief Cllr Nickie Aiken said: “The latest Ofsted inspection of Wilberforce confirms the school has steadily improved its quality of teaching and pupil attainment since the arrival of the interim headteacher in September 2011, but also underlines that there is a lot more work to be done.

“Prior to September, the school’s achievement standards and pupil progress had been in decline to the point where the council needed to take robust action.

“The school has since come a long way, but the timing of this Ofsted inspection means the overall judgement has still resulted in a notice to improve.”

Following the poor Ofsted report, the council has told the Wood&Vale it now plans to take the radical step of removing the school’s board of governors and replacing it with a temporary executive board.

“The report highlights the need for the school to be held to account more rigorously and for leaders at all levels to monitor the impact of improvement initiatives more effectively,” said Cllr Aiken.

“The council is therefore proposing to appoint an Interim Executive Board to take over leadership from the existing board of governors. This proposal is currently under consultation.”

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