Leeds Farnley Park: Teachers 'bullying' strike UPDATED

Teachers today told of the "culture of fear" at a Leeds high school which led them to walk out on strike.

More than 30 teachers staged a walkout from Farnley Park Mathematics and Computing College on Wednesday amid claims they are being bullied.

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They blame the school's new boss - former Headteacher of the Year John Townsley - who took over the struggling school last September after the sudden death of former head Bill Pullen.

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Teachers say Mr Townsley - who previously oversaw the transformations of ailing Morley and Rodillian high schools - has introduced drastic new measures.

And while they agree that standards should be driven up, they object to his methods, such as testing their "capability" and "constant monitoring".

Around 20 teachers - the school has just over 50 of them - are set to leave at the end of term, many because they say can no longer face working at the school.

Speaking to the YEP, one teacher said: "It has become impossible for me to work there, that's why I'm leaving.

"The way they (the management] speak to you, the amount of work that is

expected from you, the pressure that they put on you ... they are really unrealistic demands.

"I have no objection to what he (Mr Townlsey] is trying to do, it's just how it is being done."

Another teacher, who is leaving with no job to go to, added: "There is a culture of fear. You always feel like you are always under inspection and you are only as good as your last observation. It's like having Big Brother watching you the whole time.

"He (Mr Townsley] is impatient to make things happen but he doesn't seem interested in the impact it has on his staff."

The strike was a joint action by all three teaching unions represented at the school: the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

Amir Mohammed, the Leeds officer of the NASUWT, said: "The teachers have not taken this action lightly - they did not want to disturb the children's education. But, after long negotiations with Education Leeds, they felt they had no other option.

"They feel there is bullying and intimidation going on and that they are being mistreated. The head has been hammering staff on minor points of their practice.

"If you have issues in your job, where you need some support, you expect to be treated with professionalism and in a civilised manner, not to be shouted at."

The school was open as normal yesterday (wed) after replacement staff were drafted in from other schools.

Mr Townsley was unavailable for comment but has previously said: "You cannot be an outstanding school if you bully, harass and harangue your colleagues."

He also has the support of the chairman of governors Robert Greaves who has accused union members of "deliberately and unlawfully" victimising Mr Townsley.

Rachel Reeves.

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