CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Primary school hit by teacher exodus as 30 members of staff quit

Parents raise concerns over standards at Edith Neville after rapid staff turnover

27 April, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Edith Neville Primary School

PARENTS say they considered removing children from a primary school during a chaotic period which saw a startling teacher exodus, with more than 30 members of staff quitting.

The staff turnover in the three years up to autumn last year at Edith Neville Primary School, in Somers Town, led to fears among some families that the quality of education was put at risk. One worried parent said: “I find it quite disturbing and very unsettling, especially for the children who get close to and form a bond with staff only for them to leave. I have spoken to several parents who like me do not wish to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals but who totally agree that this situation has unsettled their children and affected their education.”

The school is currently looking for a new headteacher after Amanda Szewczyk-Radley left last October. Her predecessor, Sean Regan, had earned national press coverage for overseeing improvements. Edith Neville was held up as model for disadvantaged inner-city schools. Parents are now trying to work out what has made so many teachers quit.

Union sources said they raised concerns after almost an entire set of teachers left the school. Former caretaker John Punton, who has lived in a caretaker’s house next to the school since the late 1980s, said yesterday (Wednesday) he had been badly treated before he quit two years ago. He is now in a fight to keep his home next to the school in Charrington Street. The 55-year-old said he had worked tirelessly at the school.

“I enjoyed my job, but it was hard work,” he said. “It just became so difficult. It got to the point when I couldn’t sit in my garden anymore. I couldn’t bear to think about being there. The atmosphere had changed. The whole thing was grinding me down.” Mr Punton said the “last straw” was when he was told that the council wanted his home as part of the regeneration of Somers Town. “I’ve seen teachers come and go over the years,” he said. “It has always happened. But I’ve never seen anything like this. “Teachers were at breaking point – there was no support. When they said they wanted my home for something to do with the construction work, I just decided I’d had enough – it had all got too much. So I left.”

He had worked at the school when the area was “rife” with youth crime, drugs and prostitution in the late 1980s. “You wouldn’t come down here then,” he said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say I got called out every night in those days, to clean up broken glass from the windows in the streets.” Talks between Mr Punton and the council over his home have now broken down.

A Camden Council spokesman said: “We advised Mr Punton on his housing options in 2015. However, he chose not to take up our offers of housing assistance. We remain committed to assisting him with his housing situation and we have tried to contact him several times this year to help him but received no response.” He added: “Edith Neville School achieved a ‘good’ rating in its last Ofsted inspection. We are supporting the school governors to recruit a new headteacher to build on this success, aided by the sterling work of teaching staff, to deliver the best possible outcomes for the pupils in the future.”

Chair of governors Laura Citron said last night: “Ms Szewczyk-Radley has not been in school since October 2016. Governors and Ms Szewczyk-Radley have now agreed that she will move on from her role at the school. “Ruby Nasser will remain as acting headteacher while we recruit a permanent headteacher.”

Ms Szewczyk-Radley could not be contacted.

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