Head caught up in bullying row

Westfield Sports College
Westfield Sports College
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STAFF at a Sheffield secondary school are to propose a motion of no confidence in their headteacher today amid allegations of bullying and intimidation.

Chair of governors Coun Ian Saunders is set to speak to staff at Westfield Sports College in Beighton, admitting to The Star there are ‘problems’ at the school.

Union representatives are also attending the meeting, with one saying the situation revolves around the management style of head Sue Simmons, who has been in charge for the last five years.

Mrs Simmons said the allegations had taken her completely by surprise - and added she was shocked and hurt that anyone could accuse her of such behaviour.

One teacher said Westfield was currently “a very unhappy school” with staff feeling constantly under threat and under pressure.

“Many staff have grievances against the head and things have been taken to the chair of governors who has called a meeting for this afternoon,” he said.

“There is no platform for staff to feel they can safely voice their concerns.

“They feel intimidated and dare not challenge decisions.”

Another source said the school had been nicknamed ‘the exam factory’ as pupils were entered for large numbers of courses resulting in worthless qualifications but which boosted Westfield’s position in league tables.

As a result staff were expected to come in to teach during the holidays, despite there being after-school revision nights during term.

“If this doesn’t happen staff are ridiculed and left to feel accountable,” the teacher added. “We get little rest or time for curriculum planning.”

Other allegations include threats that staff who were felt to be only ‘stubbornly satisfactory’ would be removed from their posts if their lessons failed to improve, with no support given to teachers who were given difficult classes.

Coun Saunders said he always addresses the Westfield staff at the end of the school year, denying the meeting had been called as an emergency.

But he said: “There are problems at the school which need to be addressed sooner rather than later - and I will be trying to sort them out.

“I don’t want to inflame this situation, I’m trying to keep a lid on it. It’s a situation that could blow up but hopefully it won’t.

“I’m hoping matters will calm down over the summer.”

Toby Mallinson, Sheffield NUT joint divisional secretary, confirmed the union would have a representative at the meeting.

“Clearly some of our members have concerns over issues which I understand are being investigated by the governors, and to which we are seeking a resolution,” he said.

Mrs Simmons told The Star: “I operate an open door policy and anyone can come and talk to me at any time about any issues or concerns they have.

“The school and its students are my number one priority, as I am sure they are for all members of staff here.

“I would hope we can all work together for the benefit of the students to resolve this matter as quickly and amicably as possible.”

The council’s executive director of children and young people Dr Sonia Sharp added: “Sue Simmons is dedicated and focused to raising the standards of the whole school.’’