Oval Primary parents claim to “oust” new headteacher

Extraordinary reports reached Inside Croydon last night that Craig Tunstall, the executive headteacher of the Gipsy Hill Federation installed in charge at east Croydon’s Oval Primary School, had been “ousted” on Friday by angry teachers and parents.

According to parents who were at Oval Primary on Cherry Orchard Road for a meeting with the new headteacher on Friday afternoon, Tunstall and his “management team” left the school with no intention to return barely 48 hours after being placed in control.

Croydon Council was unable to confirm the reports, and there was no answer at the Lambeth “hard federation” school office, after close of school on Friday ahead of a week-long half-term.

Tunstall is the £151,835 per year “executive headteacher” of three Lambeth primaries, under a “hard federation” scheme which stops short of full amalgamation but sees the schools share policies, management functions and staff.

Tunstall’s Gipsy Hill Federation of schools – Elm Wood, Kingswood and Paxton – was formed three years ago by Lambeth Council when Elm Wood was placed on special measures as a “failing school” following an adverse report by Ofsted inspectors.

As reported first by Inside Croydon, on Wednesday the head of the 400-pupil Oval Primary, Ruth Johnston, was asked to leave after the school governors were overruled by Croydon’s education department. On arrival on Thursday, the GHF management opted to exclude five children from Oval Primary, one for not wearing a coat in the playground, another for not eating their lunch.

Oval Primary has been on special measures since December following a damning Ofsted report.

The decision to call in Tunstall’s GHF may prove to be the last significant one taken under Croydon’s £11,000-per-month temporary director of the education department, Di Smith.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of the decision, the timing of it, and the haste with which Johnston was asked to leave, seems badly flawed and has proved extremely unsettling for the staff, parents and, above all, the schoolchildren.

The decision was imposed less than two weeks before Smith is due to handover the department to its new, permanent head, Paul Greenhalgh. And it came just a couple of days before the school was due to break up for half-term.

Tim Pollard, the cabinet member for children, young people and learners on Croydon Council, tried to justify the hasty actions in an email reply to an enquiry from Addiscombe councillor Sean Fitzsimons, asking why other councillors had not been consulted or informed.

According to Addiscombe First, Pollard said, “It has all had to be put together very swiftly following the school’s recent Ofsted.

“The DfE’s policy is to immediately take any school, which drops into a category, out of Local Authority control unless the Local Authority pre-empts this with a very rapid partnering arrangement. Speed is the key.”

Surely getting the decision right is the key?

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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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