Oval primary head replaced as school handed to “federation”

The management of Oval Primary School has been handed to a Lambeth-based “federation” after its headmistress was asked to leave the school at virtually no notice, to the dismay and concern of some parents.

The school was put on special measures in December, after a poor report following an Ofsted inspection.

Croydon Council’s education department has handed the running of the 400-pupil school, with children aged 5 to 11 in Cherry Orchard Road near East Croydon, over to the Gipsy Hill Federation, a grouping of three schools based in Lambeth.

We understand that a meeting of the school governors on Wednesday afternoon objected to this course of action, but was over-ruled by the council.

The headmistress, Ruth Johnston, was asked to leave the school at around 3pm on Wednesday, with staff being informed of the changes on Thursday morning.

Inside Croydon has received reports from members of the school’s PTA that on the Gipsy Hill Federation’s first full day in charge at Oval on Thursday, five pupils were excluded, one for not wearing their coat in the playground, another for not eating their lunch.

Parents received two letters on Thursday, this one from the chair of governors:

Dear parents/carers,

I am writing to you on behalf of the governing body of Oval Primary School with regard to some major changes taking place with immediate effect.

As those of you who attended the post-ofsted parents’ meeting will know, there is an expectation that a school in ‘special measures’ will enter into a partnership agreement with an outstanding school. This is to ensure that the school has access to high quality support in order to accelerate the pace of improvement.

Through discussion and negotiation with the Local Authority and the Department for Education, it has been agreed that Oval Primary School will enter into such partnership with The Gypsy  Hill Federation of Kingswood, Elm Wood and Paxton Primary Schools.

The Partnership will be led by Mr Craig Tunstall, executive headteacher, who will write to you separately to introduce himself and his team.

Mrs Ruth Johnston, our current headteacher, will be moving on to new challenges.

On behalf of everyone I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her dedication, hard work and caring personality to the school whilst she has been with us. Since the inspection she has continued to work tirelessly with the whole staff team to move the school forward and leaves the school well placed to rise to the challenge of coming out of special measures. I am sure that you would all wish to join me in wishing Mrs Johnston all the very best for the future.

In the meantime the governors would ask you to give your support to Mr Tunstall and his team as they settle in to the school. We are looking forward to new and exciting challenges in the days and weeks ahead.

Ofsted inspectors visited the school before Christmas and delivered a dire report, with “4s” – the grade for “inadequate” – across a range of the school’s activities, characterising Oval as a “failing school”.

But at the gates of the school, which cares for a number of children with special educational needs, parents have expressed concerns at the treatment of Ruth Johnston and the manner of the handover.

“The departing head had things in place and was ready to turn that around, but she wasn’t given the chance to implement them even though it sounds she had the backing of her staff, the governors and the PTA,” one parent told Inside Croydon.

“This has been done all very suddenly and has left my wife and I very worried.”

Parents are due to have a meeting with the school’s new headteacher this afternoon.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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