Staff at Red Gates School in Monks Hill who successfully fought off having their school added to the Pegasus Academy Trust had strong cause for concern.
Chillingly, at the time of the proposed takeover, one Red Gates GMB union member said, “We feared for the wellbeing of our pupils and for our school as a whole.”
The family of the former caretaker at Beulah Infant School know all about that.
Cathy White, who worked there for more than 30 years, most recently as its site manager, died on April 23. She had been suffering from disability-related ill-health – Cathy had Type 1 Diabetes, Gitelman’s syndrome and petit mal epilepsy.
Her family are very angry with her employers at Pegasus Academy Trust over what they allege was the bullying and harassment Cathy suffered.
Cathy White’s daughter, Claire, told Inside Croydon that Pegasus management put her mother under a lot of stress, with thinly veiled threats about losing her job, despite her disability.
This included a “performance review” earlier this year with one of the Pegasus directors, Jolyon Roberts, that relied on “evidence” that was five years old.
Cathy White had to wait for over a fortnight before being told the outcome of that meeting. She was given a vague warning that she needed to improve, but was given no standards or objectives. This only increased her anxiety.
During her final weeks at the school, her family say that Cathy was subjected to impossible work schedules and demands. Cathy cancelled hospital appointments that could have helped with her disability, as she felt she could not take time away from work.
In one instance, Cathy was told to move railway sleepers unaided. She did it, but hurt her back in the process. Fearful for her job, she continued coming into work despite the pain this caused her.
Claire said, “I don’t want anyone to go through this fear like my mum did, and be scared of having time off because they have an illness or a disability.”
Inside Croydon invited Pegasus Academy Trust, and Jolyon Roberts, to comment on the complaints of Cathy White’s family.
They responded with this statement: “All of the staff at Pegasus Academy Trust were shocked to learn of the death of Mrs Cathy White. Cathy was the long-serving caretaker at Beulah Infant School and a valued friend and colleague. To show our respects and to allow as many staff and parents to attend her funeral, Beulah Infant School was shut for the day of her funeral on Friday May 12.
“The trust sends its condolences and sympathy to Cathy’s family.”
In Pegasus’s 2022 annual report, it says “the Academy Trust supports the recruitment and retention of staff and students that have disabilities and will, wherever possible, ensure that any necessary support is provided”.
As far as the family and friends of Cathy White are concerned, those are hollow words.
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