It was 2.43pm when the publish button was pressed yesterday at Inside Croydon Towers for our exclusive report of the imminent departure from the council of Rob Henderson, executive director of children, families and education.
Two hours later, the council chief executive, Jo Negrini, got round to informing the borough’s elected representatives, the councillors, of this most significant development for a local authority whose children’s services department has only just emerged from nearly three years in special measures.
Henderson’s decision to leave, while the council is in the midst of a financial crisis, has placed Fisher’s Folly “in turmoil”, according to one senior Town Hall figure.
When Negrini finally passed the news about Henderson on to the people she is supposed to be accountable to, she wrote, “Rob has done an absolutely fantastic job since he joined us in late 2018. His leadership, alongside Nick Pendry and Shelley Davies, has transformed the department. This brilliant work, coupled with the dedication, resilience and hard work of staff, led to Croydon being rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted earlier this year…
“On a more personal note, I just want to say how sad I am that Rob is leaving us. He will be missed – but I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him the very best.”
The working relationship between Negrini and Henderson has been described by colleagues as “frosty”.
In her email to councillors, Negrini then suggested that Henderson has been going around the council offices doing some kind of impersonations of Theresa May – “In Rob’s own words, the team he leaves behind is ‘strong and stable’.”
In fact, Henderson is the third senior member of staff in his department to leave in a matter of a few weeks.
Shelley Davies has only just been appointed as the “interim director of education and youth engagement”, jointly the second-most senior position in the department.
And Alison Farmer, the head of SEND, left Croydon abruptly on July 17. She is understood to have moved to a similar role at another borough.
Farmer’s departure came shortly after she had been discovered making a phone call directly to the employers a parent of a child with special educational needs or disabilities, without the parent’s knowledge or approval – a highly questionable, even unethical act and one which resulted in the affected parent feeling forced to leave their job.
It seems most unlikely that Farmer will have left Croydon Council because of that incident, because of course, Croydon would never dream of taking disciplinary action for someone who managed, through unethical conduct, to undermine one of the borough’s residents they are supposed to serve.
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