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Head of second troubled Cumbrian school stands down

A second headteacher in Workington has quit with immediate effect just three days after Stainburn head Chris McGrath.

Lynda Dalkin photo
Lynda Dalkin

Lynda Dalkin, of Southfield Technology College, broke the news to pupils and staff yesterday, before leaving the same day.

Her dramatic exit comes after both schools were deemed to be failing following a snap round of Ofsted inspections at 16 schools across Cumbria last year.

And the latest Ofsted report to be published shows Maryport’s Netherhall School “requires improvement”.

A public meeting is to be held tonight for parents at Southfield at 6pm. Another will be held at Stainburn tomorrow.

Both Southfield and Stainburn were put into special measures last month after being deemed as failing by inspectors. It has now been announced they will both shut at the end of the year, before reopening as a single academy next January.

Stainburn head Chris McGrath left on Friday.

Mrs Dalkin said she felt it best to stand down before the academy opens.

In a statement she said: “After just short of 10 years at Southfield, and with much sadness, I have decided that it is better for the future of the new school that I leave before the consultation meeting.”

She is now expected to be offered a new role within the Local Education Authority (LEA).

She added: “The suddenness of this will come as a shock to you but once the process begins to close or merge schools, an existing headteacher would always be in a difficult position.

“There is a big job to do with a short timescale to do it in. The person with that responsibility will need to make fast progress and not to be held up by an existing head’s presence. I have supported the merger of Southfield and Stainburn for many years. I still do."

Mrs Dalkin said the merger is the right move for the young people of Workington.

Her departure prompted a wave of support from parents.

One said she had been an “excellent head for 10 years and for her to go like this is an absolute disgrace”.

Another said she had “worked tirelessly for the good of the staff and students”, adding: “She does not deserve this treatment and neither do the staff and kids at the school.”

Cumbria County Council launched a six-week consultation last week into proposals to close the two schools and replace them with a new town academy.

The schools were already working towards a merger, because of falling pupil numbers. The authority had previously said a decision on whether Mrs Dalkin or Mr McGrath would be taken on as head of the new academy would be down to the new sponsors.

The consultation document is available on the county council’s website and will run until March 3. A final decision is expected on July 24.

Netherhall School’s Ofsted report concluded that the school can not yet be rated good but nor has it been classed as inadequate.

This was because inspectors found that students had not made “continuously good progress” in maths and English and because teaching in some lessons was not sufficiently challenging.

Despite this, inspectors praised students for their good attitude to learning and teachers for providing good guidance and support to their pupils.

Have your say

So we have CCC at the consultation meeting stating that closure was not a certainty, yet yesterday Southfield students were told at assembly by I believe the new executive head that the school WILL close.
This then being the case why have any consultations at all?

OFSTED for all their failings, I don't believe have stated that both Southfield and Stainburn will be forced to close.
The closure option is the choice and only choice of CCC and the LEA, they fail to so much as ask themselves "what can we do to help."

The below makes interesting reading!

The governing body, in consultation with the local authority, is expected by the DfE to start to consider what action to take immediately after the oral feedback. There is no longer a requirement for the school to produce an action plan as a result of being placed in an Ofsted category. It should instead amend its existing school development or improvement plan to set out the actions which will be taken to address the issues highlighted by the inspection and how these will be monitored.
The local authority’s statement of action must provide details of the actions it has taken to date to support the school, a detailed explanation of the options for the future of the school, the additional support the local authority will commission to help the school and a plan of future action, including resource implications, whether the local authority intends to use its intervention powers and scope for the school to be closed, federated or to become a Trust school or an Academy.
Ofsted will evaluate the local authority’s statement of action and report back on whether it is acceptable or how it might be improved. Statements are used by inspectors during the first monitoring visit of the school, to assess the effectiveness of the support provided by the local authority to the school.


So now we know why CCC and the LEA have been slated by OFSTED, other than the fact it has been common knowledge the total lack of support for our schools by CCC and the LEA.

CCC and the LEA have simply used this situation to ensure that they can cut their costs and wash their hands of their responsibilities for education.
We had a case yesterday of weather related damage to the roof of Southfield school, BUT when was an inspection last carried out?

OFSTED have pointed out quite correctly that the small amount of support given to schools is reactive, where is the proactive support?
So do we have to be grateful to CCC for the £500000 they are pushing in, too little to late, again an example of CCC and the LEA`s reactionary ideology.

"Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “We will be announcing a significant amount of funding to support the Cumbria Alliance of System Leaders (CASL) at the budget meeting on Thursday. There will be some demands on that pot of money"

The above shows the total lack of any direction from CCC, what with "demands on the pot," surely CCC and the LEA should have be able to identify the areas that need the support, unfortunately it seems this is too much to ask of them.

It is time we had a clear out of management at CCC and the LEA and get staff in who know what they are doing.

We should all be asking questions as to how this situation has been created.

Where is the transparency of CCC and the LEA?

Posted by edd on 13 February 2014 at 13:58

I agree totally with Edd.
The way Ms Sutton spoke at the consultation meetsings was disgusting.

It has now become very clear why the publication of the two schools' ofsted reports was delayed - it was to allow the time to appoint and executive head and two interim head teachers.

Now I ask you this - have the schools been forced to close due to the ofsted report, or was the ofsted report 'fabricated' to ensure the closure of both schools, the conversion to academy status and therefore letting CCC off the financial hook?!

Posted by angry staff on 7 February 2014 at 11:16

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