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					                   A Personal Reflection on the Decline
                  of Marton Primary School in Blackpool
                                          Alan Veale

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                                       School Retort


PDF created with pdfFactory trial version
                                         School Retort

             This volume was first produced in serialised form on the
             Internet between August and December 2007. It has
             been edited only to make it easier to read in book form,
             and remains my personal view on the situation that
             developed after the appointment of a new Head Teacher.

             However, this is not just the work of one individual, and I
             am grateful for the willing input from (among others)
             former Head Teacher Lynn Lancaster, and former
             Councillor Jon Bamborough.

             Alan Veale
             December 2007

             All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do
             Edmund Burke
             Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 - 1797)


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                                       School Retort


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                                       School Retort

             Introduction                                      7

               Chapter One
             Complaints, a Satsuma & Pornography               9

               Chapter Two
             OfSTED - and two staff exits                      16

               Chapter Three
             The Biggest Mistake of All                        22

               Chapter Four
             Repercussions                                     27

               Chapter Five
             Head into Trouble!                                31

               Chapter Six
             How did it all go wrong? – The Final Answer       41

               Chapter Seven
             The buck stops here                               47

             Conclusion                                        57


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                                       School Retort


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                                       School Retort


             The following information has been obtained from various
             sources, and has reached my ears over the last two years. The
             details given below have been verified as far as I am able, but
             much of the “really sensitive” stuff has been derived at, rather
             than verified. By this, I mean that the persons who COULD
             have verified it have refused to do so for legal reasons – but
             then, they haven’t denied it, either!

             Therefore the details below should only be taken as my own
             slant on what I believe to have happened, and it may be that,
             when legal restrictions permit, the persons concerned may
             wish to correct any false impressions.

             It is my understanding that, when Ruth Coupe was first
             interviewed for the post of head teacher at Marton Primary
             School, she came across very well indeed, and was chosen on
             her merits because she appeared to embody the same spirit as
             her predecessor, Lynn Lancaster. It must be remembered that,
             at the time of Mrs Lancaster’s retirement, the school had a
             much higher complement of pupils than it does now, that it had
             previously enjoyed two previous OfSTED reports rated at
             “Good”, and that there were no reported problems with either
             parents or members of staff. The governors were particularly
             keen to see that Mrs Lancaster’s work at the school since its
             inception should continue in the same vein, and so Mrs Coupe
             was selected as the person most likely to do that. Having since
             spoken to members of the panel who conducted that interview,
             I can reveal that they were bitterly disappointed in their choice.

             Prior to the start of Mrs Coupe’s first term, some preparatory
             work was done to set out areas that it was felt warranted
             attention in relation to the school curriculum, and various
             working practices. Mrs Lancaster was directly involved in
             making these recommendations, and they were felt to be
             practical considerations that would assist in meeting the
             standards required for the forthcoming OfSTED inspection in
             2005. While some of these recommendations were adopted by
             Mrs Coupe, many were ignored until they were incorporated as
             part of the Post-OfSTED Action Plan presented to governors
             twelve months later.

             Early in Mrs Coupe’s first term, the assessors for the Investor’s
             In People standard wrote to Mrs Coupe to remind her that the
             school would need to be re-assessed in the near future to be
             able to maintain the standard achieved three years earlier. The
             letter was ignored, as were further letters, until the IIP
             assessors had to complain to the school that they were still
             illegally advertising the IIP standard 18 months later. The work
             that is involved between the assessors and a school in
             achieving the IIP standard should have ensured that the school


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                                       School Retort

             would have met all the necessary requirements to reach at
             least a “satisfactory” marking in the OfSTED inspection in April
             2005. It is my personal belief that the IIP letters were
             deliberately ignored because certain persons wanted to see an
             “under-achieving” result from OfSTED – backing up the
             impression given by Mrs Coupe to other members of staff that
             she had inherited a “failing school”.

             This first year under Ruth Coupe saw numerous incidents
             arising that directly affected several members of staff. Without
             going into detail, there were unresolved issues that directly
             involved Mrs Coupe, and where members of staff under her
             found themselves to be in disagreement. Some of these
             incidents arose from the changes to the curriculum mentioned
             above, but others arose entirely because of the management
             methods used by Mrs Coupe. Some staff members felt so
             aggrieved that they took their complaints to the LEA, through
             the School Link adviser, Steven Collinge. Others had their
             complaints voiced in person by their Union representatives,
             and some items were brought up at governors meetings. None
             of these issues reached the ears of the parents or the general
             public, and some of these same issues are still subject to
             procedure today, nearly three years later. In the meantime,
             there was little or no support given to these members of staff
             by the LEA, the minutes of the governors meetings were
             “edited” to exclude anything that may be deemed
             controversial, and “battle lines” began to be drawn between
             the head teacher and union representatives Mrs Alderson and
             Mrs Reidy.


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                                   CHAPTER ONE
             Complaints, a Satsuma and Pornography

             My first view of Marton County Primary School (as it was called
             then) was in 1998, when I looked round it as a parent of a
             child nearing school age. Not having entered a primary school
             for some years, I was immediately impressed by the ambience
             of the place. As soon as I passed through the front doors I was
             struck by the warmth of my environment. This was not physical
             warmth – just a feeling that I had entered a place that felt
             comfortable and friendly. One could sense that this was a busy
             place, and that there was almost a feeling of excitement about
             both the children and the staff. I realised in the course of my
             visit that this was almost certainly a direct result of the attitude
             of the Head Teacher, Mrs Lancaster, whose enthusiasm for her
             work was infectious. That same enthusiasm was evident in
             both the staff and the pupils, and I knew at once that I wanted
             my daughter to be a part of it.

             Over the next few years, I found my faith to be justified, with
             my daughter Mollie clearly benefiting from her experiences. My
             son Matthew started there two years later, by which time I had
             already become a parent governor. Throughout Mrs Lancaster’s
             remaining years at the school, it was consistently clear how
             well the school was run, and that the Head Teacher’s influence
             was significantly effective in producing the results that
             mattered. The acronym “T-E-A-M” (Together Everyone
             Achieves More) was never better illustrated. It was with great
             personal sadness that I heard of Lynn’s retirement in 2004,
             and I did not envy anyone stepping into her shoes. Lynn
             Lancaster would be a tough act to follow!

                                                             “She is in my opinion
                                                             completely power mad…”

             When the news broke about the problems being encountered
             by staff just twelve months later, I was prepared to make
             allowances for the new Head Teacher. After all, she would
             perhaps have found herself in a difficult position, and would it
             not be only natural for her to wish to make a few changes?
             Joining such a well-established team of teachers and support
             staff may have seemed a little intimidating, and I felt the need
             to check out for myself just how much of the apparent
             disturbances were down to a resistance to change. The
             following is a statement from one member of staff, written
             within the first few months of Mrs Coupe’s arrival:

             “The staff are not adverse to changes – Lynn was always up at
             the forefront when it came to new initiatives and changes were
             necessary. Marton has always been a school which has moved


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                                       School Retort

             forwards – however they were always done in a democratic
             way open to negotiation and discussion by all. Inevitably some
             people were disappointed as they didn’t get what they wanted
             but the process was always followed through openly and with
             acceptance. Now we are working in a dictatorship – no open
             discussion/negotiation takes place. She appears to think and
             treat us as though we are in a failing school which is NOT the
             case, she is using and manipulating statistics/PANDA reports to
             suit her cause. A school that gets 70% - 80% pass rate for
             SATS is NOT failing. She has no concern/appreciation for the
             people i.e. the children behind those results, she just sees
             them as figures or a statistic to champion her cause. She is in
             my opinion completely power-mad. The staff are in such
             despair it is unbelievable, many think she is deranged!!!”

             So what about the governors? Were they not aware of these
             sentiments? Surely there would have been questions raised at
             governors meetings?

             “Ruth will have made everything sound very straightforward as
             she wanted to try to manipulate (NAMED GOVERNOR) into her
             way of thinking. We know from witnesses and evidence that
             she has spoken to at least 5 governors privately as she did
             with (NAMED GOVERNOR) in order to secure her way of
             thinking at that governors meeting. This has been reported to
             the LEA as she should NOT have done this. She is VERY
             manipulative with words and says what you want to hear all
             the time if she wants something from you however she then
             does exactly what she wants regardless. She will also have
             made the issues seem small because she wants them
             implemented however they clearly are not and will have a
             massive impact on both children and staff. The way that she is
             rail-roading implementation by dictatorship is a BIG worry to
             the staff also.”

             Note that the writer refers to the LEA being informed. This
             would almost certainly have been through the School’s Link
             Adviser, Steven Collinge. It would appear (following
             information supplied regarding procedures conducted at
             subsequent governors meetings) that nothing was ever done to
             correct Mrs Coupe’s handling of matters at such meetings. That
             is, until the then Chair of Governors (David Taylor) resigned for
             personal reasons in July 2005. His replacement (Mike Turner)
             is well known to have been a staunch supporter of Mrs Coupe,
             and was no doubt delighted to let his name go forward for
             election… One of his first actions was to propose a radical
             change to the school’s complaints procedure – ensuring that
             any complaint made against the Head Teacher would be
             subject to her own personal attention. The following is an
             extract from that proposal:


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                                        School Retort

             “If the Head teacher is the individual complained about, the
             Chair of Governors will make an initial response, but again only
             by letter to a verifiable parent at a verifiable address, pointing
             out the impossibility of dealing with the issue unless the Head
             teacher is involved.

             From time to time the Chair will also have to deal with issues
             raised by members of the public. If they fall into any of the
             categories mentioned above they will be dealt with as stated
             above. Otherwise the Chair will deal with them as he/she sees
             fit, which will usually involve consultation with the LEA and
             such Governors as can be reached in whatever timescale is
             available. Again the response will only be by letter to a
             verifiable person at a verifiable address.

             This policy was adopted at the full Governors meeting held on
             24th November 2005.

             Mike Turner, Chair of Governors.”

             So – if a parent wished to make a genuine complaint against
             either the Head or the Chair of Governors, there would be no
             chance at all of it being dealt with by an independent person or
             body – a procedure commonly adopted elsewhere. And as we
             shall see – lodging a complaint with the LEA is likely to be just
             as fruitless! In short, the power of these particular “managers”
             is totally autonomous. Not a problem if they do their job
             properly, but in the wrong hands…?

             A member of staff, writing to me in August 2005:

             “We have been told that if we are not happy with the situation
             we have to get out. Although a lot of staff are not happy, it is
             not that simple to walk out of a job when you have family and
             mortgage responsibilities”

                                                   Mrs Coupe said, "if nobody puts their hand
                                                   up, then I am calling in the police..."

             Thanks to the professionalism of such members of staff, the
             children were generally unaffected by the change of Head.
             Indeed, they saw very little of her, as Mrs Coupe preferred to
             spend most of her time either in her office, or visiting Progress
             House. Her interest in her pupils appeared to be purely
             incidental. However, there was ONE incident in January 2005
             that brought her directly into the lives of one class of children –
             and with an unpleasant result: (some names abbreviated as
             they refer to serving members of staff)


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             The Satsuma Incident

             The layout of the classrooms is such that there is a small room
             in between the two classrooms. All doors were open between
             the rooms, so, although the teacher who witnessed the incident
             could not see or hear clearly what was going on, she was
             aware that Mrs Coupe was in the other classroom and that
             there was an interrogation going on, about a sucked satsuma
             which had been left on the floor, and no child had admitted
             leaving it there. The witness does not want to be identified,
             and has been advised by her union not to make a direct
             statement. What follows is therefore compiled from notes
             made by a third party.

             The interrogation went on for about an hour. This was in the
             afternoon, and the children missed playtime as nobody would
             admit to it, and went on till home time. The two adults
             involved in the interrogation were Mrs Coupe and Miss M
             (support assistant). After the incident, they both entered the
             central room, laughing. Miss M called the witness in and both
             related to her (very proudly, as though it was really funny)
             what had happened:

             They said that it had started when Mrs W had discovered the
             sucked satsuma on the floor when the children had gone to sit
             down at their tables. She had asked who had done it, and
             when nobody admitted to it, she backed herself into a corner
             by threatening the children they would have no playtime if
             nobody admitted to it. When some time had gone by, with
             nobody admitting to it, Mrs W went to get Mrs Coupe to deal
             with it, leaving Miss M in charge of the class. (Mrs W had to
             leave school early as she had some sort of appointment or
             something to do with her own children). Mrs Coupe arrived in
             the classroom, and began interrogating the children about who
             had done it. After a while, three or four children were crying
             as they had then been told there would be no playtimes at all
             THAT HALF TERM if nobody admitted to it. At this point,
             obviously realising they were getting nowhere, Mrs Coupe said
             that the police were in school (which they were - for something
             in upper juniors), and would not be very pleased to hear that
             children were not telling the truth. She said that the police
             would be able to look at the satsuma and work out who had
             sucked it. This continued for sometime, with some of the
             children getting more and more agitated. When Mrs Coupe
             said, "If nobody puts their hand up, then I am calling in the
             police..." one little girl (who was always as good as gold) put
             her hand up in a panic. Mrs Coupe took her outside and told
             her how naughty she had been, not to admit to what she had
             done etc. She told Miss M that she needed to see her mother
             when she came to collect her from school. As it happened, the
             little girl's mum was not picking her up that night, but another


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             parent. When this parent arrived, Mrs Coupe went to talk to
             her and explain why the child was so upset.

             When Mrs Coupe and Miss M were discussing this in the middle
             room after the event, the witness told me she felt so shocked
             about what had been done, and at Mrs Coupe's reaction to it
             (thinking it was funny) that she didn't know how to
             respond. She felt terrible for the children, and couldn't believe
             what she had heard. As Miss M is only young, it may have
             been understandable if she had maybe made an error of
             judgment and dealt with it by herself in this way. The witness
             presumed that Miss M had gone along with what was
             happening as Mrs Coupe was the head teacher. What really
             shocked her was that a head teacher had acted like
             this. When Mrs Coupe had gone, she told Miss M that she
             thought it was quite wrong to threaten young children with the
             police, and if she was a parent of one of those children she
             wouldn't be at all happy, as teachers always try to get the
             children to see the police as friends. Miss M seemed quite
             embarrassed, as she probably realised at this point that it had
             not been an appropriate way to deal with the situation. The
             two of them also discussed the fact that they did not think the
             little girl who had owned up to it had actually done it. They
             both had their suspicions about who had done it. Miss M
             admitted that the little girl had probably put her hand up when
             Mrs Coupe had said, “if nobody puts their hand up, then I’m
             calling in the police,” without even thinking what she was
             putting her hand up for – just thinking she would be stopping
             the police coming in.

             When she got home, the witness was still shocked and told her
             husband what had happened. She asked him if he thought she
             had over-reacted. He said he didn't think so. He was as
             shocked as she was.

             The following morning, Mrs W spoke to the witness to tell her
             what had happened the previous afternoon. The witness told
             her she already knew as she had heard directly from Mrs
             Coupe. She also told her she thought it was dreadful, for the
             reasons already mentioned. Mrs W laughed it off, and did not
             seem to think it was anything bad. In view of this the witness
             began to question her own reaction. Again, she wondered if
             she was over reacting. About ten minutes later, the father of
             the accused child came into school to see Mrs Coupe. Mrs N
             went down to see Mrs W, as Mrs Coupe was in assembly. Mrs
             W said to ask the parent to wait for Mrs Coupe to come out of
             assembly. After a while, Mrs N came back down and said that
             Mrs Coupe was going to be a long time, and she didn’t like to
             ask the parent to wait that long, or to come back the following
             Monday (this was Friday). At this point Mrs W said she would
             speak to him. She went up to the office, and spoke to the
             parent. When she returned she said he had come in to see


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             what had gone on, as his child had come home very upset, and
             told him that she was not guilty. Mrs W said that he had been
             very pleasant about it and she had managed to diffuse the
             situation, without involving Mrs Coupe. The witness said she
             did not know whether Mrs Coupe ever knew the parent had
             been in.

             This was not to be the last time Mrs Coupe used a threat of
             police action. Being married to a serving police officer may
             have something to do with it, but I can confirm to having been
             the victim of such threats myself (see Chapter Seven).

             Strange then, that at a time when the police COULD have been
             brought in to resolve a problem, Mrs Coupe failed to do so!

             Not very long after the incident with the Satsuma, a male
             supply teacher was discovered behaving in an inappropriate
             manner while supervising a class full of children. The following
             statement was prepared by Janet Connor (support assistant) at
             the time, fully expecting to have to provide it for the police.
             However, Mrs Coupe did not choose to do so, and specifically
             asked that the parents should not be informed. Draw your own
             conclusions: (some names abbreviated as they refer to serving
             members of staff)

             The Pornography Incident

             Approximately one week after Mr P started as a supply teacher
             Miss M mentioned to me that she had noticed that whenever
             she entered the classroom Mr P turned off the computer
             monitor. I hadn’t noticed this, and on that note I went into the
             classroom. As soon as I entered the room Mr P switched the
             monitor off and began marking children’s books. I returned
             and agreed with Miss M. We both asked Mrs K to do the same
             and on entering the room the same thing happened. Again, I
             suggested we should mention this to the class teacher Mrs T.
             On telling Mrs T she said the same thing had happened on the
             few occasions she had entered the room. We all thought this a
             little strange and agreed to keep an eye on things.

             I noticed that Mr P never left the classroom during the day. I
             asked him on several occasions if he was going to the
             staffroom at lunchtime and playtime, and he always declined
             and remained in the classroom. I noticed that Mr P often had
             his laptop plugged in on the carpet whilst he was using the
             classroom computer. I also noticed that Mr P had one of the
             little key things that the teachers use in school, which he used
             on the class computer. I asked Mrs T if the school would have
             provided him with one to use. She told me she didn’t think so,
             but that it may be his own, and she wasn’t sure if he should be
             using it if it was his own.


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             That evening I telephoned Mrs Reidy (Year 1 class teacher) and
             asked her advice on whether she thought Mr P’s behaviour was
             a little strange in class. She told me it sounded quite odd, and
             to keep an eye on him. The next day Miss M went into the
             classroom to use the computer to make up certificates for the
             children. She came to me and said that Mr P had jumped off
             his chair and asked her what she was doing, which again is
             strange as all the staff use the class computer regularly. Miss
             M said she had noticed two web sites minimized at the bottom
             of the screen. She said they sounded a little strange for the
             classroom. Mr P went outside to collect the children after
             afternoon play and I went into the classroom and jotted down
             the two sites. They were “Celeb Forum” and “Female O”, and I
             went straight to Mrs T in the other classroom and told her that
             I was now very concerned. She said she would speak to Mr
             Richardson (IT Co-ordinator) after school.

             At home that evening I couldn’t settle, so I decided to do a
             search on my own computer to see if the sites were acceptable
             for school. I was shocked by the content of the site. It was not
             suitable to be viewed in school. I telephoned Mrs Reidy again
             and asked her to view the sites. She also advised me to check
             that Mrs T had been able to get hold of Mr Richardson. The
             next day Mr P was in the classroom when I got to school. I
             went straight into Mrs T’s classroom. I told her of the content
             of the site and she was very concerned. She told me Mr
             Richardson had been unable to get the history of the sites on
             the computer the night before, but that she would go right
             away and tell him what I had found. She asked me to stay
             with the children and she left.

             Mrs T returned with Mrs Coupe and Mr Richardson. Mrs Coupe
             asked me to her office where I told her and Mr Richardson
             what sort of things were on the site. Mrs Coupe said we should
             move the children from the classroom and that Mr P should go
             with them. We told Mr P that he should bring the children to a
             classroom where the children were to have a talk about
             keeping the toilets and cloakroom tidy. I was asked to stand
             by the door to make sure everyone stayed there. After a while
             I was asked to identify Mr P’s belongings and they were moved
             to the other side of the classroom door. I stayed with the
             children. I was told Mr P was being escorted from the
             premises. This is my statement and is true to the best of my

             Sadly, this was not to be the last incident of its type in school.


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                                  CHAPTER TWO
             OfSTED - and two staff exits

             One of the real “hot potatoes” for discussion around Marton
             Primary School has been the OfSTED inspection of April 2005,
             and its subsequent effect. Now, I am not an education
             specialist, and my role as a parent meant that (like most other
             people), I had a fairly limited knowledge of what the purposes
             of such an inspection may be, how it should be conducted, and
             how to interpret the results. I have learnt a lot more in this
             particular department since 2005, and (without going into too
             much detail) I feel it is appropriate to share my new knowledge

             Basically, an OfSTED inspection is a Government tool to
             measure the effectiveness of a school, and to make suitable
             recommendations for improvement where appropriate. As a
             result of that inspection, the Government can impose certain
             demands on a school and the LEA, should the standards of
             education be found to be “unsatisfactory”. The inspections
             themselves are conducted by private companies operating to
             government contracts, and the inspectors visiting the schools
             will normally have served as teachers or head teachers
             themselves. The 2005 inspection was conducted by a company
             called “Peakhause”, who lost their contract shortly afterwards
             to another called “Nord Anglia”. The rules by which these
             companies operate have recently been changed, principally in
             an effort to “tighten up” the standards by giving considerably
             less notice of a visit. Further details relating to these periods
             of notice have already been posted by Richard Thornton on the
             Discussion Forum, so I do not intend to repeat them here.

             Prior to the 2005 inspection there had been two other OfSTED
             inspections at Marton – both of which found the school to be
             operating to a “good” standard, and with several mentions of
             “excellent” in some areas. Some relatively minor action points
             had been noted on each occasion, and these were already
             either in place, or noted for action prior to Mrs Coupe’s arrival.
             In the summer of 2004 there was no reason for anyone to feel
             that the school was declining in its standards in any way. Mrs
             Lancaster had already proved her abilities as head teacher, and
             she was careful to ensure her successor would receive the
             school and its staff in as good a condition as possible. As
             stated in the introduction, some preparatory work had already
             been made for recommendations for change to the curriculum
             and working practices.

             So – with such a good background to its academic standards,
             what was it that brought about that result of “under-achieving”
             in the 2005 report?


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             With the benefit of hindsight, I believe it was a mixture of
             genuine incompetence, poor decision making, and selfish
             greed. Firstly, while Ruth Coupe had made an excellent
             impression at her interview, her approach to her colleagues
             during her first few weeks at Marton displayed an appalling
             example of people skills – skills that are surely an essential
             quality for a head teacher. Quite simply, I believe she was not
             equipped (mentally) for the demands of a school so much
             bigger than her previous posts. She was probably out of her
             depth, and resorted to the lame excuse of “leave it with me”
             for almost every issue demanding her attention. The letter
             from “Investors In People” was probably forgotten about, and
             almost certainly was never mentioned during the numerous
             visits she made to Progress House seeking guidance.

             And what of David Lund? The Director of Children’s Services
             should certainly not be blamed for the school governors’ poor
             choice of head teacher, but now he was faced with having to
             instruct Ruth Coupe on how she should run the school! Don’t
             forget that this is a man who never rose above the rank of
             “Deputy Head” himself, so he was never really qualified to give
             the necessary advice himself. Perhaps he should have taken a
             different choice of action at that stage, but I believe he felt this
             would be an opportunity to take direct control himself –
             effectively running the school by proxy. That view is certainly
             borne out by his appearance at the school on the day of the
             OfSTED inspectors’ arrival. There would normally be no need
             for the Director of Children’s Services to make such an
             appearance, and it must certainly be seen as significant. It is
             my view that the events over the months leading up to the
             inspection made Mr Lund realise that the school was in serious
             trouble, and he was very concerned that the inspectors might
             point the blame in the right direction…

             But lets go back a little to look at some of the reasons I draw
             those conclusions:

             Prior to a full OfSTED Inspection, the head teacher must ensure
             that a “Form S4” is completed, and made available to the
             inspection team. This is a fairly lengthy and involved
             questionnaire from OfSTED that is intended to provide the
             school’s own evaluation of its performance in specific areas
             that are of interest to the inspectors. The idea is that it will
             provide a baseline of information to which the inspectors may
             refer when making their own observations. The responsibility
             for its completion lies with the head teacher – who is expected
             to “involve other key staff and governors” for the necessary
             information. In this particular case, Mrs Coupe is believed to
             have completed the form entirely by herself, and it took
             several requests from colleagues in the Action Group before we
             were able to obtain a copy of this form under the Freedom of


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             Information Act, and to have it examined by members of Mrs
             Coupe’s staff.

             I reproduce below some extracts from the S4 Self-Evaluation
             form for 2004-2005. This comes in three parts – first the
             question posed on the form (underlined), then Mrs Coupe’s
             response, and finally the Comment on that response by
             members of staff:
                                                       “Performance Management was
                                                       never carried out, despite it being a
                                                       legal requirement”

             1c How would you rate the school’s improvement since
             its last inspection?
             (4 – average)

                •   What has improved most? – ICT provision.
                •   Comment: This came out very badly in the OfSTED
                    report and there have been continuing problems ever
                    since, including concerns about security and child safety
                    in terms of internet access.
                •   What still needs improvement, and what action is
                    being taken? – Performance Management to be
                    linked to whole school targets – a new system is
                    currently being established and assessors trained.
                •   Comment: 2004 – 2005: Performance Management was
                    never carried out, despite it being a legal requirement,
                    and the benchmark for teachers’ progression. This could
                    have serious repercussions on teachers’ progression, the
                    governors and HT. No assessors have been trained.
                    Two members of staff were asked to do Performance
                    Management without training. There has been no
                    mention of Performance Management so far this
                    academic year.

             5a How well does the curriculum meet pupils’ needs?
             (3 – above average)

                •   How do you know? – provision for learning outside the
                    school day with Homework club, Booster sessions and
                    extra-curricular clubs.
                •   Comment: No clubs Autumn term 2005. Only four
                    booster sessions in 2004-2005.
                •   What are the best and most innovative aspects of
                    the curriculum, and why? - ….Health Week.
                •   Comment: No Health Week 2004-2005.

             8b. How effective is the management of the school?
             (3 – above average)

                •   How do you know? – governors fulfil their statutory
                    responsibilities for Performance Management.


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                •   Comment: No Performance Management took place
                    2004-2005. Governors were unaware that PM had not
                    been performed. OfSTED found the governors did not
                    fulfil their statutory duties, although this was disputed
                    by governors.
                •   In what ways does the management of
                    performance need improvement, and what action
                    is being taken? – Performance Management to be
                    strengthened – with training for assessors.
                •   Comment: No PM has been performed 2004-2005 (see
                    above). No training undertaken.
                •   In what ways does the management of
                    performance need improvement, and what action
                    is being taken? - induction procedures for new staff.
                •   Comment: There were no induction procedures for new
                    staff in place, and none have been implemented since.
                    DHT criticised by LEA for not monitoring NQTs.

                                                         “The DHT has not always agreed
                                                         with the HT, and has criticised her in
                                                         private to other staff”

                8c What are the most significant aids or barriers to
                raising achievement?

                    •   What are the most significant aids? – HT and
                        DHT with a shared philosophy.
                    •   Comment: This is not true. The DHT has not always
                        agreed with the HT, and has criticised her in private
                        to other staff, parents and OfSTED inspector. The
                        DHT has not been consistent in her views, altering
                        them according to her audience.
                    •   What are the most significant aids? – Effective
                        support from the LEA. Comment: There had been no
                        significant support from the LEA pre-September
                        2004, when the school was supposedly under-
                        achieving. After the LEA Audit, there was a feedback
                        meeting, at which it was suggested good practice be
                        shared. As no staff were told who was exhibiting
                        good practice, this could not be done.
                    •   What are the most significant barriers and what
                        is their effect? – high staff turnover in recent
                        years……Many experienced staff have moved on.
                        Comment: This is not true. Turnover of teaching
                        staff, in particular had been average to low. Only the
                        HT and DHT had moved on, along with four other
                        experienced members of staff, since the previous
                        inspection, six years previously.


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             Clearly, Mrs Coupe’s views of her school were not always
             consistent with her own staff – who were not given the same
             opportunities to express their views to the inspectors. Some of
             the answers given by Mrs Coupe could be put down to
             ignorance or incompetence, but several seem to me to be
             deliberate lies. Mr Lund would have been aware of the content
             of the form, and MAY have contributed towards its completion,
             but one does have to ask what their intentions were in
             providing the OfSTED team with such inaccurate information?

             We all know the result: The school was found to be under-
             achieving, but with OfSTED recommending that the
             management team pull together behind the vision of the head
             teacher! So – no blame was cast in the direction where it
             SHOULD have lain, and the overall impression was given that
             Mrs Coupe was going to be the school’s saviour…


             By the time that the OfSTED team visited Marton Primary
             School, it was becoming clear to staff members (if not the
             parents) that the proverbial rot had set in. Already, one senior
             teacher (Mrs Reidy) had been signed off with stress, and at
             least one other staff member was to follow for the same
             reason. In Mrs Reidy’s case, she had been directly involved in
             confrontations with Mrs Coupe, acting on behalf of other
             members in her capacity as a union representative. She was
             also a very conscientious teacher (she taught my own
             daughter), and highly respected by her colleagues.

             Work-related stress and depression are extremely difficult
             diseases for anyone to understand if you have not experienced
             them yourself. Your every waking moment is subject to an
             irrational sense of despair, often bringing you to lengthy
             periods of feeling a need to shut yourself off from the outside
             world. You are aware of the irrationality of it all, but you have
             no control over it. I have been down that route myself, and I
             never want to go there again. In my case, it was not work-
             related – indeed, my return to work was almost a kind of
             therapy. However, imagine then how much more awful it must
             be, that the very thing you have built your career on, that you
             came to love, and that pays your mortgage, just cannot be
             tolerated any more.

             Mrs Reidy is no longer a teacher. She had to sacrifice her life’s
             work because of the chaos brought about by the appointment
             of Ruth Coupe. It has to be a pretty serious problem for
             people’s whole lives to be turned upside down in such a way.
             And yet David Lund has belittled the efforts of others to draw
             attention to the impact of the change of management at
             Marton School. Indeed, he has directly contributed to it,


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             personally intervening to remove support assistant Janet
             Connor from the school, following her own complaints to him,
             and her decision to move her own children to different schools.
             Tit-for-tat. “Make a complaint, and you’re out.” That was
             becoming the philosophy at the school. No wonder teachers
             were becoming terrified of the consequences of speaking up
             against their head teacher – they had seen what had happened
             to others.

             And worse was to come, with the sudden disappearance of
             Beverley Alderson…


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                                 CHAPTER THREE
             The Biggest Mistake of All

             Throughout the time period over which Marton Primary School
             has been declining (2004 to the present), much of the reason
             for its problems can be attributed to mistakes – errors of
             judgement by persons who are highly paid NOT to make such
             catastrophic errors. These are people whose day-to-day
             workload can have far reaching impact, because their every
             decision can influence the lives of so many others. In the
             normal course of events, the training and experience of these
             influential managers would be sufficient to ensure that they
             could be relied upon to do their job properly. No local authority
             would willingly put itself into a position where its entire
             structure and hierarchy could be questioned as corrupt by
             numerous members of its own public.

             The fact remains that those mistakes WERE made – and
             several of them have already been admitted to. Surely the
             biggest mistake (since the appointment of Marton Primary
             School’s present Head Teacher) was Mrs Coupe’s own decision
             to suspend her Assistant Head Teacher, Beverley Alderson. The
             second biggest mistake was the decision of David Lund to back
             her in that decision. It was that suspension that particularly
             triggered public awareness that something was wrong with the
             school – drastically wrong. Without that, we may have raised
             our eyebrows in surprise over the OfSTED “under-achieving”
             result, we may have expressed our sorrow when the Chair of
             Governors resigned, we may even have raised a few questions
             over the reasons why some members of the school staff had
             removed their own children from the school – but each of those
             issues could have been adequately passed off by Mrs Coupe or
             the LEA as purely incidental. The school continued to open its
             doors, and our children (generally) still came home with the
             same old stories about what their day in class had been like.

             The difference now was that Beverley Alderson was a major
             figure – a popular, long-serving teacher (twelve years) who
             had been a mainstay of Lynn Lancaster’s era. Many school
             children had passed under her wing to flourish at English in
             particular (as noted by OfSTED), and her absence at the
             school’s Leavers Assembly that year could not help but be
             noticed. Many of her Year 6 class were in tears that they could
             not say goodbye, or to present their little gifts to the teacher
             who had prepared them so well for the step up to high school.
             Parents did ask the question (of Mrs Coupe), and were lied to.
             The Head Teacher had sworn her staff to secrecy – but the
             dreadful news was soon to come out. A public outcry began –
             and has never stopped after over two years! If there had been
             a valid reason for Mrs Alderson’s suspension – say, for


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             assaulting a child – we would all have raised our hands in
             horror, the details would all have been made public, and
             everyone could have moved on. Justice was done… But justice
             was NOT done! The suspension was not valid, and after years
             of doubt, unanswered questions, and some appalling examples
             of bureaucracy gone mad, it is high time that the full story
             came out:

             The difficulties I have had in piecing this story together would
             make a separate story in itself. There is no single source for
             this. It would have been so much simpler to have gone straight
             to Mrs Alderson and Mrs Coupe themselves, and taken
             statements, but both parties are subject to a “gagging” order
             as a result of an agreement signed over a year ago. Instead, I
             have had to rely partly on information I obtained from persons
             close to both parties prior to that agreement being signed, and
             partly on statements provided more willingly once a document
             came into my hands that had been “leaked” on behalf of Mrs
             Coupe. Without the benefit of that document, much of what
             you are about to read may never have come out.

             Earlier in this account I referred to the confrontations that
             began to take place between Mrs Coupe and certain members
             of her staff. These arose because the new Head’s ideas for
             improving the school were sometimes queried by senior
             teachers, who were alarmed at the possible impact on both
             their colleagues and the children in their care. For instance,
             the special reading incentive “ERIC” (Everybody Reads In
             Class) was suddenly dropped without any proposal for an
             alternative. As this incentive had been extremely successful in
             developing both children’s confidence and reading abilities,
             there was understandable concern over its demise.

             The school has a staff of around 60, and most of these had
             been at Marton for several years – a sure sign of stability and
             success. Part of that was down to the careful consideration
             given in the sharing of duties allocated by its Head Teacher.
             Mrs Coupe decided to alter the balance, and to change the
             duties of some staff without any apparent regard to their
             experience or aptitude. Staff became unsettled. Some had
             been given “promotion”, and therefore felt they should be loyal
             to Mrs Coupe, while others felt cast aside because they had
             expressed some disagreement. The cracks were certainly
             starting to show very early in the Autumn of 2004, but no one
             had any idea of the “earthquake” to come.

             As a union representative, and a member of the Senior
             Management Team, Beverley Alderson was in prime position to
             speak directly to Mrs Coupe about the reservations felt by her
             colleagues. Feeling she was getting nowhere with the Head,
             she finally turned to the LEA for help, and was summoned to a
             meeting with David Lund. Far from offering her any support,


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             Mr Lund made it very clear that he expected Mrs Alderson to
             back her head teacher 100% - or face consequences which
             would be detrimental to her own career… Thankfully, Mrs
             Alderson ignored his advice, preferring to show loyalty to her

             But there were further incidents of intimidation and
             harassment, and in the first week of July 2005 Beverley
             Alderson lodged a formal “Grievance” (complaint) against Mrs
             Coupe through her own union (NASUWT). Just over one week
             later, on 14 July 2005, after a final meeting between herself,
             Mrs Coupe and two colleagues, Beverley Alderson was
             suspended by Mrs Coupe for “allegations of potential gross
             misconduct”. She was immediately escorted off the premises
             by Stephen Collinge, Link Adviser to the LEA. The details of
             these “allegations” were to remain unknown to all but a few for
             the next eight months, and Marton School staff were told to
             say nothing at all to anyone, or face disciplinary proceedings
             themselves. A week later, at the Leavers Assembly, parents of
             Year 6 children were told that Mrs Alderson was “indisposed”.

             During the months that followed, while parents were
             exasperated at the lack of answers coming out of either the
             school or Progress House, two very important documents were
             being prepared: The first of these related to the Grievance
             lodged on Mrs Alderson’s behalf, and eventually ran to over
             100 pages, comprising statements from around 30 staff
             members prepared to testify against Mrs Coupe. The other
             was relating to a Disciplinary Investigation following Mrs
             Alderson’s suspension, and would be carried out
             “independently” by one of the Council’s own officers… The
             document that was produced for the Disciplinary is the one that
             was subsequently leaked, and found its way to me, but it was
             first produced in March 2006 – one month AFTER a hearing
             was called for the aforementioned Grievance to be heard.

             In fact, departures from established rules and procedures have
             a lot to do with the reasons why Mrs Coupe’s case against Mrs
             Alderson broke down. Included within the leaked file is a 19
             page statement from the Investigating Officer, summarising
             statements taken from Mrs Coupe and several others. This
             officer (Linda Marsh) admits that a meeting took place with
             Beverley Alderson’s representatives on 15 September 2005, in
             which the NASUWT complained that allegations referred to in
             the letter of suspension served on Mrs Alderson exactly
             mirrored the allegations made in her own Grievance against
             Mrs Coupe! The implication was that the charges levelled by
             Mrs Alderson were now being twisted against her, painting
             Ruth Coupe as the victim. It was a direct result of this conflict
             that the meeting was then adjourned, and no further meeting
             took place until January 2006. Curiously, the statements
             supporting Mrs Coupe contained within the file were all


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             recorded between July and October. In addition to Mrs Coupe’s
             own statement (September 2005), there are 11 others from
             Marton school staff, and five from the LEA. Two staff members
             are since said to have asked for their statements to be
             withdrawn, one saying she had been asked to lie, and another
             that she had been promised promotion. One wonders what
             happened during the three months between the last statement
             being recorded, and the January meeting…

             It is my understanding that several things went on between
             October 2005 and January 2006: To begin with, in October
             2005 the Marton School Action Group was formed, and the
             present Discussion Forum was established on the Internet. I
             had my first (and only) meeting with David Lund, and in
             November 2005 (after being threatened with legal action by Mr
             Lund) the Action Group attracted the attention of Councillor Jon
             Bamborough. Questions started to be asked in Council
             Chambers, and a legal wrangle broke out between NASUWT
             and the LEA over the need for the Grievance to be heard before
             the Disciplinary. Even the Council’s own Legal Department
             backed that one, and recommended a reciprocal investigation
             into the conduct of Ruth Coupe. Their recommendation was

             One would normally expect, for justice to be seen as fair and
             transparent, that a Grievance hearing against a Head Teacher
             would be very carefully assembled and prepared. The hearing
             was to be held by a panel of three (Marton) school governors
             under the supervision of the LEA. While I cannot provide any
             details of exactly what was said at this event, I can say that
             the hearing was abandoned by Mrs Alderson’s union
             representative after the panel were only prepared to examine
             the first three pages of the 100 page Grievance document! In
             the meantime, the Director of Children’s Services had been
             actively promoting Mrs Coupe’s endeavours at the school
             among Blackpool Councillors and Heads of other schools in an
             attempt to counter the gathering negative publicity.

             So now, with the publication of the Disciplinary document in
             March (5 months after recording the last statement), a date
             was set for a hearing. Immediately, the LEA ran into trouble.
             The recommendation in the Investigating Officer’s report was
             that there was a case to answer – which meant that, if a
             hearing accepted that report, dismissal was inevitable. But the
             NASUWT pointed out that such a decision would be illegal if the
             Grievance had not been heard, and further action could take
             place that would be exceedingly embarrassing for the Council.

             With time running out, the arbitration services of ACAS were
             finally brought into play in early June 2006, and the LEA were
             forced to compromise. Both actions were dropped entirely,
             and Beverley Alderson was left with a clean record, and free to


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             resume her teaching career. Both she and Mrs Reidy were paid
             an undisclosed sum of money by way of compensation for
             losing their positions at Marton Primary School, and both
             parties signed an agreement that they would not disclose
             details of their respective actions.

             And that really should have been the end of that sorry little
             story, but as we shall see – it wasn’t.


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                                  CHAPTER FOUR

             It may now start to become clearer to the reader just how
             important was the leaking of one particular document.
             Somewhat like the first crack in the wall of a dam, once that
             little bit of information came out, it became so much easier to
             find out more. Even as I write this page, more facts (and I do
             mean “facts”) are reaching my ears. From where I sit, the
             view of Blackpool Council is becoming clearer – and it is not a
             pretty sight!

             Earlier, I referred to the author of that leaked file: Linda Marsh
             acted as the Investigating Officer for the Council (by whom she
             was employed), and it was her job to carry out an
             “independent” investigation to see whether there really was a
             case to answer against Beverley Alderson. To establish the
             answer to that question, she carried out a series of interviews
             with staff at the school, and with the LEA. As referred to
             earlier, there were 11 interviews with school staff recorded in
             the document. But this only accounts for approximately one
             sixth of the school complement, so was this a fair cross section
             of the school community? It appears not.

             To begin with, the fateful meeting between Mrs Coupe and Mrs
             Alderson that immediately preceded the suspension was
             attended by two other staff members. One of these was the
             Deputy Head Teacher Val Brookes, who supplied a statement
             supporting her Head Teacher. The other one was Roger Farley
             – and he did NOT provide a statement. Could this be because
             he had already supplied one for the Grievance lodged by Mrs
             Alderson? For whatever reason, Linda Marsh did not see fit to
             take a statement from an important witness. Or if she did, it
             was never included in her finished document!

             But there’s worse: because there were TWO other statements
             taken from staff members that never reached the published
             document. The reason why is because these particular
             witnesses were NOT prepared to support the views of Mrs
             Coupe, and refused to speak against Mrs Alderson. It has even
             been reported to me that one of these witnesses was asked by
             Linda Marsh to change his statement to show Mrs Alderson in a
             bad light! This teacher subsequently left the school, and has
             provided written evidence of Linda Marsh’s shameful conduct.

             It could not get much worse, could it? Or then, maybe it


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             Let’s take a look back at how the news broke over the
             conclusion to the suspension, once agreement had been
             reached through ACAS. On 6 July 2006 The Citizen newspaper
             announced “Two teachers involved in the dispute will not
             return to Marton School – but will continue their careers at
             other schools without ‘any obstacles’ it was revealed. … (The
             dispute) involved the suspension of assistant head teacher,
             Beverley Alderson, and the absence of another, un-named
             teacher who has been on long-term sick leave.” That other
             teacher was Jill Reidy, who was signed off with stress in
             February 2005, and has been unable to resume her teaching
             career since.

             But hold on a minute! We also know that BOTH teachers were
             subject to a confidential agreement at the conclusion of the
             suspension business, and BOTH received financial
             compensation. So why are there now TWO teachers affected
             here, when we have already established that only ONE was
             suspended, and that the leaked Disciplinary file was intended
             to look at that ONE suspension? Perhaps maths was never my
             strong point, but would you agree that something doesn’t quite
             add up?

             For the answer to that question, let us return to the
             redoubtable Linda Marsh. As I have said, her brief was to look
             at whether there was a case to answer over the suspension of
             Beverley Alderson. This was her conclusion:

             “5.6.4 Consequently I conclude that both individually and
             collectively the allegations may be considered to be gross

             But then she continues:

             “5.7 Additional Conclusion
             Throughout the investigation, witnesses referred to the
             behaviour of staff other than Mrs Alderson. From the
             information contained in the witness statements, the behaviour
             of Mrs Jill Reidy, Mrs Janet Connor and Mrs Lisa Taylor could be
             deemed to be serious misconduct, and a disciplinary
             investigation into their actions may need to be considered.”

             That statement should NEVER have been included in that
             document. This is like a barrister in a court of law opening the
             case for the prosecution, pointing to the public gallery, and
             singling out three other spectators to stand up in the dock with
             the defendant! Marsh made a personal observation as a result
             of the enquiries she made, and that single statement alone
             makes a complete mockery of the “independent” tag to her
             report. None of these three members of staff were aware that
             they were ALSO subject to any investigation until the report


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             was published in March 2006. But why were they picked out in
             any case?

             Mrs Reidy was a union representative with Mrs Alderson, and
             had therefore backed her in her confrontations with Mrs Coupe,
             but then she had been off sick for five months before the
             suspension took place. Ironically, it was Linda Marsh’s own
             department (Human Resources) that would have been charged
             with the duty of welfare throughout Mrs Reidy’s sick absence.

             Mrs Connor was a support assistant, charged with caring for a
             child with SEN (Special Educational Needs), and unlike Mrs
             Alderson or Mrs Reidy, was directly employed by the LEA. She
             had complained to the LEA about Mrs Coupe, but without
             result, so she made the decision to remove her children from
             the school. As a direct result of that action, David Lund
             removed Mrs Connor, and placed her in a different school.

             Mrs Taylor was also a support assistant, in the employ of the
             Council, but her circumstances were slightly different: She was
             the parent of a child in Beverley Alderson’s Year 6 class, and
             she was also Mrs Alderson’s teaching assistant, so when the
             suspension took place she found herself in a unique position.
             Ruth Coupe wanted her to lie to her own daughter about the
             reasons for her teacher’s mysterious absence, but she refused
             to do so. I should add that Mrs Taylor was also a teaching
             governor at the school and a representative of the public
             services union UNISON. She was certainly extremely well
             qualified to know all about the various conflicts that had been
             building up since the arrival of the new Head Teacher, and she
             had been vocal in her support of Mrs Alderson. Now with her
             own daughter upset, demanding to know why she couldn’t see
             her teacher to say goodbye for the last time, Mrs Taylor was
             placed in a very emotional position. Ruth Coupe did not take
             refusal lightly, and made several threats of disciplinary action
             should she find that Mrs Taylor had “gone public”. The
             pressure of that last week was too much. Mrs Taylor became
             ill, and has been signed off work with stress ever since (over
             two years). So she too has been in receipt of the care and
             attention of Linda Marsh’s department!

             Please note that Beverley Alderson, Jill Reidy and Lisa Taylor
             were ALL trade union representatives – whose duty it was to
             represent the voices of their colleagues in discussions with
             their respective managers.

             So here is the answer to another question: Why were there
             TWO settlements made once the suspension issue was
             concluded? Because the LEA had caused TWO teachers to be
             investigated, and were therefore responsible for clearing their
             names to allow them to resume their careers. So far as Mrs
             Connor and Mrs Taylor were concerned, both were still


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             employees in receipt of their salaries, so the question of
             careers did not enter into it.

             This only leaves one other name, also subject to unwarranted
             criticism in Linda Marsh’s report, and now about to re-join the
             repercussions of Blackpool Bungling Council’s shameful
             conduct: Mrs Lynn Lancaster, former Head Teacher of Marton
             Primary School.


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                                   CHAPTER FIVE
             Head into Trouble!

             One thing that has constantly puzzled me over the last two
             years was how on earth Ruth Coupe could imagine she would
             be able to sustain her position. She told the panel of
             governors who interviewed her exactly what they wanted to
             hear; she clearly had a great deal of intelligence, and was not
             without several years of experience, but when she took up her
             post at Marton, there was no possible way she was going to
             mask her lack of suitability for the job. Don’t get me wrong, I
             am not criticising Mrs Coupe’s academic abilities, but as she
             immediately set herself up as a leader “with a vision”, I still
             find it incredible that she seriously thought she would be able
             to fulfil that “vision” without meeting opposition. I can only
             assume she had supreme belief in her powers to influence
             others into her way of thinking. That – or she knew she could
             rely on some other powerful people in positions of influence,
             perhaps keen to see a new version of Marton Primary School
             that reflected well on their own leadership.

             But before we look at a head teacher with one vision, let us
             look at another: Mrs Lynn Lancaster had been the head since
             the school opened, and chose to retire for personal reasons,
             none of which had anything to do with the school’s academic
             success (or otherwise). In fact, Marton Primary was enjoying
             an enviable reputation: One governor volunteered the
             following observation in a letter to the Chairman in May 2004
             (four months BC) – “Marton is a centre of educational
             excellence. It is a part of the community. It offers all children
             a happy and caring learning environment. It is at the forefront
             of new initiatives and always ready to embrace change. All of
             this is to the credit of those who have been involved over the
             years -children, parents, teaching and support staff,
             Governors, the LEA and, perhaps most importantly, the Head
             teacher. Under the leadership of Lynn, the school has gone
             from strength to strength and in my view it is her vision,
             motivation, drive and determination that has made Marton
             what it is today.”

             In fact, similar words to those above were used by none other
             than David Lund, Director of Children’s Services, at the
             ceremony held at the school to mark Lynn’s retirement just two
             months later. It is hard to believe that this same gentleman
             has so publicly backed Mrs Coupe over the last three years in
             systematically destroying most of the hard work done by Lynn

             I shall return to those changes later, but first I feel I should
             explain that much (but not all) of the details provided in this
             instalment originate from Mrs Lancaster herself. In February
             this year, after reading the contents of the leaked disciplinary


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             file for myself, I felt there were several individuals who needed
             to be aware of the file’s existence. Mrs Alderson was obviously
             the first one, as the act of leaking the document was clearly a
             malicious attempt to damage her career. But the file also
             contained material that was very likely to cause considerable
             upset to others. I was soon to visit Mr and Mrs Lancaster at
             their home in Burnley, and it is as a result of that visit that the
             details which follow are now being aired in public.

             It is not generally known that (for the most part) the incidents
             of 2004 to 2005 passed un-noticed by the former head for two
             reasons: (1) Mrs Lancaster was enjoying her first year of
             retirement by spending most of it touring abroad with her
             husband, and (2) the staff at school did not feel it was right to
             trouble her about what should really have been none of her
             concern. However, Lynn Lancaster made two personal visits to
             Marton during the year – once to follow a well-established
             tradition in providing the staff with chocolates as a “de-stress”
             treat in the week of the OfSTED inspection, and on another
             occasion as a guest at an assembly near Christmas. This was
             the only time she came face-to-face with her successor – and
             met a VERY frosty reception! Determined not to let it upset
             her retirement, Lynn shrugged it off and put the incident
             behind her.
                                                              “I would not have retired if I
                                                              still wanted to be involved”

             Then something very strange occurred in June 2005. Just after
             returning from a holiday in Venice, Lynn received a phone call
             from the LEA. This was an enquiry from the Assistant Director
             of Children’s Services Rob Brophy, and he wanted to know how
             much she knew (and was involved in) the present difficulties to
             be found at Marton School, bearing in mind he had heard that
             she had attended a meeting with some of the staff there! Lynn
             was astonished, as she had NOT attended such a meeting, and
             had been in Italy at the time anyway. She told Mr Brophy that
             she was only aware that there were problems because of the
             enquiries she had received for references from members of
             staff who were clearly looking to find alternative employment.
             So far as anything else was concerned, she told him “I would
             not have retired if I still wanted to be involved.” She also said
             that she was very concerned that her name had been
             discussed without her knowing.

             A little later, Lynn was contacted by Dick Greenfield of the
             NASUWT. He was acting on behalf of Beverley Alderson, and
             asked if she would be prepared to make a statement about her
             own knowledge of the school, and to answer some questions of
             a professional nature about both Mrs Alderson and Mrs Reidy in
             their capacity as union representatives. The following are
             Lynn’s own words, taken from a copy of her reply to the


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             NASUWT that she gave me earlier this year, and written on 25
             June 2005:

             “However, I have now been contacted by the NASUWT and am
             happy to make the following statement about circumstances
             before I retired.

                •   Ethos of Marton Primary School – August 2004

                    Marton had a caring philosophy where every individual
                    was valued and treated with respect, where everyone
                    mattered – children, governors, parents and staff. A safe
                    and secure environment was in place so that the whole
                    school community could feel happy and be able to
                    develop. High quality teaching and learning took place.

                •   Strengths of Marton Primary School – August 2004

                       1. Teamwork – strong team of all staff who worked
                          together and respected each other. Strong Senior
                          Leadership Team with whole school vision.
                       2. Broad and balanced curriculum – well planned and
                       3. Foundation Stage
                       4. SEN and Inclusion
                       5. Music
                       6. PE/Sports
                       7. PHSE – especially Health Ed, Drugs, Sex Ed and
                          Circle time
                       8. Art & Display
                       9. Reading development throughout the school,
                          supported by Better Reading Partnership
                       10.Extended curriculum – wide range of clubs and
                       11.Before & after school care
                       12.Parental partnership
                       13.Planned developments in Workforce Reform –
                          supporting reducing staff workload & providing an
                          exciting curriculum for all children”

             Lynn then went on to list the recommendations made at a
             meeting between herself and her Senior Leadership Team
             (including Mrs Alderson) in August 2004. These were left with
             Mrs Coupe for the start of term:

                •   Areas for Development, Marton Primary School –
                    August 2004

                       1. Numeracy – progression and continuity, especially
                          ay KS2 – being addressed through the provision of


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                            3 sets in each year group at KS2 and training
                            especially for new staff.
                       2.   Extended writing – continue to develop through
                            extensive training lead by English coordinator –
                            planned 3 sets for literacy in September 2004 &
                            more training.
                       3.   Replanning curriculum teams – not an area for
                            development, but, because of recent staff changes
                            and young staff – a lot of time needs to be given
                            to this
                       4.   Continue to build on individual tracking of children
                            to monitor progress
                       5.   Revisit marking and response policy because of
                            staff changes to ensure consistency
                       6.   Continue to look at timetables linked to workforce
                            reform and DFES requirements.
                       7.   Support Year 2 as lower SAT & PIPS results in
                            2004 after having made good progress in previous
                            years – maybe due to change of staff

             All other developments shown in Curriculum Action Plans.

             Dick Greenfield also asked Lynn for her views on the newly
             published OfSTED report:

                 •   Comments re Inspection Report (seen on

                       1. This doesn’t seem like the same school!
                       2. If Marton was drastically underachieving over the
                          last 5 years why wasn’t I informed by the school
                          adviser, we had to ask for advisory teacher input,
                          which was only provided in 2003-2004.
                       3. This is so different from the last 2 inspection
                          reports and comments from anyone who has
                          visited and spent time in the school – comments
                          from prospective parents, parental surveys when
                          asked what we can do to improve, advisers and
                          advisory teachers, college supervisors for
                          students, staff from other schools who have come
                          to observe etc.
                       4. Although there had been staff changes since the
                          previous inspection, quality of teaching was
                          always monitored very closely and support given.
                          Perhaps staff were too stressed with the whole
                          process in this OfSTED to perform well.

             At this stage, Lynn had no idea at all of the depths of despair
             that had now been reached by many of her former colleagues.
             As mentioned above, she had personally visited the school with
             a gift of chocolates to help “de-stress” the teaching and
             support staff, being all too aware how much of a strain such an


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             inspection could cause. Her comments in 4 above indicate that
             her only conclusion was that the stress levels were still too
             high. Would that she had known just how high!

                                                 “Staff were professional towards each
                                                 other and respected each other’s opinions”

             But it is her comments below that were probably of more value
             to Mr Greenfield:

             “In addition I have been asked to comment on:

                •   How staff relationships were managed

                    Staff relationships were managed very openly and
                    honestly. As Marton was a school with a large staff it
                    was important that communication was clear and any
                    issues dealt with fairly. The Deputy Head and Assistant
                    Head as well as other senior members of staff made sure
                    they picked up on any concerns and brought those for
                    discussion. These issues might be personal, affecting a
                    member of staff’s performance, teaching concerns, use
                    of support staff etc. Union representatives fed back on
                    any union Issues and these were discussed with myself
                    and other senior members of staff.

                •   What the relationship between all staff was like

                    Everything was very open. Staff were professional
                    towards each other and respected each other’s opinions
                    even though they might not always agree. The senior
                    staff played a key role in this maintaining a whole school

                •   How whole school issues and individual
                    staff/school issues were handled by you as HT,
                    SMT, staff in general (teachers and non-teachers)
                    and the teacher unions.

                    It was important for staff to be involved in any issues
                    that involved whole school decisions so that they had
                    ownership. Any concerns /ideas/issues were discussed in
                    depth as Senior Leadership meetings so that ideas and
                    thoughts could be shared and agreed upon. These were
                    then taken to the rest of the staff – DHT – through
                    meetings with support and lunchtime staff, Key Stage
                    coordinators at Key Stage meetings and at full staff
                    meetings. Senior staff and myself would then monitor


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                     Depending on individual issues, anything that was really
                     sensitive was dealt with by myself and treated

                 •   What Beverley Alderson’s role in the school was
                     and how she was regarded by the staff in general

                     A senior and well respected member of staff. Very
                     proactive in moving the school forward and dealing with
                     any problems. The majority of staff would go to her for
                     help and advice. Staff knew that she could be relied
                     upon. Her role in school was to work in partnership with
                     the Deputy Head especially in the management of the
                     curriculum, to make sure communication was effective
                     and together pick up on any issues so that school ran
                     smoothly. A key coordinator in literacy – very skilled as
                     well as cross-curricular themes and dimensions. As Key
                     Stage 2 coordinator she had a key role in making sure
                     KS2 ran smoothly, liaising with other Key Stages to
                     ensure the smooth running of the school. Any issues that
                     arose from this key management role were fed back to
                     SLT meetings.

                •    The part Beverley Alderson and Jill Reidy played as
                     union reps and when an issue was contentious
                     how it was resolved - was the union obstructive,

                     There had been a number of union reps over the years
                     at Marton, BA and JR being the reps that were in post
                     when I retired. All acted in the same way as Marton was
                     an open school and issues were discussed and dealt
                     with. I had regular feedback from reps after meetings
                     and was given copies of any union issues. If there was
                     anything contentious then time was given to this, often
                     discussing with SLT to seek a resolution. Sometimes
                     compromises were made for instance if changes needed
                     to be made but there were organisational or financial
                     restrictions. Union reps would then feed this back to the
                     rest of their members. I never found any of the unions
                     or their representatives obstructive. They are there to
                     represent the best interests of their members.

                 •   Did Beverley Alderson and Jill Reidy lead a group
                     that was resistant to change

                     I never experienced any resistance to change from BA or
                     JR. Like other staff, they were enthusiastic and involved
                     in developing lots of new ideas, this was because staff
                     were involved in decision making processes, were
                     consulted, and understood when change was needed.
                     Marton was well known for being innovative and open to


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                     change, the school regularly had visitors from various
                     parts of the education service to look at what was
                     happening. New initiatives were always discussed openly
                     and planned as a whole school.

                                                  “It was Beverley Alderson in particular who
                                                  was so positive about Mrs Coupe”

                     David Lund has described the school as coasting -
                     please give your reaction to that

                     I am amazed that Marton could be thought of as
                     coasting. If a school is only to be assessed on results,
                     then KS2 results were steadily improving. A lot of
                     progress had been made at KS1 apart from 2004 results.
                     The School Improvement Plan addressed any issues in
                     raising standards; a school is more than statistical

                 •   Mrs Coupe has described Marton as a failing
                     school, a 'D' grade school - please describe why
                     this was not the case

                     For Blackpool schools there is a need to understand and
                     sell the Blackpool context as this impacts on children’s
                     learning and the progress they make. This includes the
                     low starting point for many children, a higher % of SEN,
                     the impact of parents working in the tourist industry, the
                     hidden FSM and the seasonal changes in this etc.

                •    Please say if you think the staff in general and
                     Beverley Alderson and Jill Reidy in particular
                     would be obstructive to a new head teacher
                     because of their loyalty to you.

                     All staff were nervous about the change, as I had been
                     at Marton since it opened. It was Beverley Alderson in
                     particular who was so positive about Mrs Coupe
                     becoming the Head teacher, she reassured staff who
                     were a bit unsure and said that it would be a really
                     positive move for the school. As Marton had always been
                     a happy school and open to change, there was no reason
                     to think that another change would make a difference.
                     Certainly, in the Summer term the staff were wishing me
                     well for my future and were looking forward to a new
                     Head teacher.

                 •   What part did a) the governing body and b)
                     parents, play in the decision making process?


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                   As with the staff, there was a clear and open relationship
                   with the Governing Body. Anything that required a
                   decision was shared in detail giving all the information so
                   that the Governors were fully informed. All issues or
                   changes were discussed and decided by the Governing
                   Body following LEA and Government guidelines.

                   Parents were kept fully informed and consultations took
                   place as needed via questionnaires, letters, meetings
                   etc. Their opinions, e.g. On homework or SEN issues
                   were listened to and taken into account.”

                   Lynn Lancaster

             As both a parent, and as a governor, I can personally endorse
             Lynn’s last comments. And as an interested party who has
             interviewed governors who have had personal experience
             under Mr Turner’s Chairmanship, I can confidently state that
             the present “regime” works very differently, and does NOT
             adhere to LEA or Government guidelines.

             From this point on, Mrs Lancaster joined the ranks of those
             parents who were only just beginning to realise the severity of
             the problems now besetting the school. While the first
             Discussion Forum website was being set up, Beverley Alderson
             approached her former Head for a reference – and naturally
             gave her more detail on events leading up to that time. As she
             would with any member of staff, Lynn was happy to provide
             such a reference.

             Lynn was now in a difficult position: Her retirement meant that
             she no longer held any official connection to the school, and
             she did not wish to implicate herself in a debate that, on the
             face of it, had nothing to do with her. On the other hand,
             some of the news that was reaching her DID cause her grave
             concern. As more detail was fed back to her, it became
             apparent that her own professional reputation was being
             maligned. Lynn was still affiliated to the National Association
             of Head Teachers (NAHT), and from that point on her own
             trade union began to take a close interest.

             There are several areas that took their attention, as Mrs Coupe
             had freely admitted to more than one member of staff at
             Marton that she had “inherited a failing school”. Months later,
             one Blackpool Councillor clearly shared that view when he
             wrote to a parent “The current head teacher was appointed by
             the governors with a brief to raise standards which were
             deemed to be unsatisfactory by OFSTED, a situation which
             had existed for a number of years prior to her
             appointment.” Even more seriously, one teacher at the
             school who provided a statement in support of Mrs Coupe
             claimed that she was “aware that Mrs Lancaster has been


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             involved in the current situation, and believe that is within her
             character”. That same statement even included allegations of
             bullying and favouritism against the former head teacher.
             Given that this statement was recorded by the redoubtable
             Linda Marsh (see previous chapter), I can only observe that
             these references to Mrs Lancaster had no place at all in a
             document relating to the suspension of Mrs Alderson! And it is
             just this point which the NAHT has been involved with, on
             Lynn’s behalf.

             However, the fact is that each of these statements were made,
             are well documented, and are therefore potentially libellous.
             Add to that the issue of a document containing such
             statements being deliberately leaked to the media, and it is
             understandable that Mrs Lancaster has now taken a much
             more personal interest in events at Marton since her

             So what was done by Blackpool Borough Council in response to
             Lynn Lancaster’s concerns? In effect, precisely nothing. The
             NAHT has been in regular correspondence with Mr Lund’s office
             since September 2005, and the responses it has received have
             been pretty much the same throughout – pleading ignorance,
             and denying responsibility. As we have all seen recently, the
             so-called “investigation” into the leaked disciplinary file merely
             resulted in a statement to say that it could not be proven who
             was responsible. As Lynn had written personally to Steve
             Weaver (Chief Executive of Blackpool Council) with a number
             of questions over the sudden appearance of this file with its
             damaging contents, she had expected at least a copy of the
             report, and a full response to her questions. She got neither.
             All she received was a very brief statement that there had not
             been anyone identified, and which was even addressed to the
             wrong trade union!

             This last twelve months have been extremely fraught for Lynn
             Lancaster. Aside from school issues, she has been in
             particularly poor health as a result of an abortive hip operation.
             She should have been able to make a better recovery, but the
             personal stress she has suffered as a direct result of the
             problems at Marton school has been highly upsetting, and no
             doubt added adversely to her general state of health. Her
             husband John has given me this present statement on Lynn’s

             “Lynn has been upset that she has been embroiled in
             something happening in Blackpool – still going on 3 years into
             her retirement, over which she seemingly has no control, at a
             time when her health has been worsening. Although any
             documents recovered in this current investigation have now
             been destroyed she is concerned about any others that may
             still be in circulation and about the role of the governors in


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             including the statement about her and then their apparent lack
             of security in allowing the documents to enter the public
             domain. Despite Mr Weaver’s reassurances she is not confident
             that the matter has ended, as no mention has been made at
             any time about the role of the governing body, which seems to
             be able to act independently – she cannot find anyone to whom
             they are answerable or who deals with complaints other than
             their own complaints procedure within the school.

             She has contacted what was the DfES who have confirmed in
             writing that any disciplinary action against a teacher is the
             legal responsibility of the Governing Body, yet this seems to
             have been ignored by Blackpool authority.

             Although she has been retired for three years she values her
             reputation in teaching, especially in the 12 years she worked as
             a Head Teacher in Blackpool and so finds this situation
             stressful. She always thought that she had a healthy
             relationship with Mr Lund – and respected what he was doing
             while she worked in Blackpool. She played an active part in
             Blackpool, alongside Jo Hurst the deputy, in giving talks etc to
             other teachers and new head teachers at the request of the
             authority. Staff members of other schools regularly visited
             Marton to view Marton’s approach to various aspects of their
             work. Mr Lund’s own speech at the final assembly for Lynn was
             very warm and appreciative so it is all the more surprising then
             that Mr Lund has allowed the rumours to be perpetuated and
             allowed the document to remain.”


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                                   CHAPTER SIX
             How did it all go wrong? – The Final Answer

             In August 2004, Marton Primary School stood on the brink.
             This was the start of a new era. The previous Head Teacher
             had been there since the school’s inception, and now it was to
             get a new one. Would Ruth Coupe be facing an impossible
             task? What approach should a new Head take on picking up
             the reins? With a total complement of just over 500 pupils and
             around 60 staff, Marton Primary School was certainly a step up
             from Mrs Coupe’s previous experience at other schools in

             There are some interesting points that emerge from Ruth
             Coupe’s history in that area: She was appointed Deputy Head
             at Primrose Hill County Primary in 1995, moving to acting Head
             in 1998, and taking over the reins there officially a year later.
             Primrose Hill is only a small school with 156 children currently
             on the roll (DFES figures). Mrs Coupe continued as the Head
             there until January 2004, when she was moved by the local
             authority to Coppull Parish Church School, a short distance
             away (197 pupils in 2004).

             I can find no official reason for this move, but one source
             states that it was to cover for long term sick absence.
             Curiously, another source claims that she told parents there
             that she had been brought in “to turn the school around and
             improve results”, and I am reliably informed that this same
             claim was made to the panel of governors at Marton when she
             attended for interview (one month later) in February 2004.
             This seems highly unlikely, however, in the light of the OfSTED
             reports for Coppull. The report published for 2000 shows the
             school to have been doing very well, with consistent
             improvements being made.

              Digging a little deeper, I found an OfSTED report for Primrose
             Hill from 2003, while Mrs Coupe was still Head Teacher there.
             At this time there were only 148 pupils, and the school was
             considered to be of a “good” standard, and the leadership to be
             “very good”. However, there is one curious extract relating to
             parents that I feel worthy of note:

             As usual, a sample of parents’ views was sought, and the
             report lists what they liked most, and what they would like to
             see improved. The table below is reproduced from that 2003
             report –


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             What pleases parents most           What parents would like to see
                •   Most children like school       • The amount of homework
                •   Behaviour is good               • Information about their
                •   The teaching is good               children’s progress
                •   Children are expected to        • The school’s partnership
                    work hard and achieve              with them
                    well                            • The school’s approachability
                •   The school helps children       • The range of activities
                    to become mature                   outside of the school day

             I find some curious parallels in the right hand column –
             especially on “approachability” and “the range of outside
             activities”. These are the same points that were immediately
             highlighted by both members of staff and parents at Marton
             once Ruth Coupe introduced so many changes.

             In looking at where Mrs Coupe has come from, the important
             thing to note is the size of the schools. Throughout her
             teaching career she never experienced a school with more than
             240 pupils, and then came to Blackpool to a school of more
             than twice that size. By the end of 2003, for whatever reason,
             she was looking for a move. Up to that time she had both lived
             and worked in the Preston area, but the vacancy at Marton
             would be under a different education authority (did she jump
             or was she pushed?), and would carry an increase of salary
             because of the size of the school.

             Whichever way you look at it, this was a major step up for
             Ruth Coupe, and one would imagine that she would approach
             her new colleagues with a determination to get them firmly
             behind her, and to deliver on the expectations of that February

             Back to the brink!

             The colleagues that would be the first of the Marton staff
             members to work with the new Head were Val Brookes (Deputy
             Head) and Beverley Alderson (Assistant Head and KS2 Co-
             ordinator). Together with Ruth Coupe, these were the Senior
             Leadership Team (SLT). The SLT first met during the summer
             holidays to make initial preparations for the new term, and to
             discuss the points left for discussion by Lynn Lancaster (see
             previous chapter). By all accounts, this meeting was amicable
             and professional throughout. It was followed on 1 September
             by an INSET day for all staff at which the SLT set out the
             details of the recommendations as a result of that earlier
             meeting. Again, there were no problems or conflicts, although
             some of the proposed changes were not universally greeted
             with enthusiasm. School opened the next day (2 September).
             One week later, on Tuesday 7 September, the SLT met for a


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             second time, and I believe it was at this meeting where the
             first indications of the trouble ahead began to appear.

             To quote Mrs Coupe’s own words – “the school secretary
             interrupted a leadership meeting to ask about letters which
             had not been sent to the parents of the Year 6 SEN (Special
             Educational Needs) children in respect of a river trip. Mrs
             Alderson said that two SEN children could not go on the trip
             because of their inability to walk. I felt strongly that no-one
             should be excluded. Mrs Alderson insisted that the previous
             Head (Mrs Lancaster) had supported her in this decision and
             had said that there should be no disruption to the learning of
             the majority because of a minority and that the SEN children
             had never been on the river trip because of this. …..
             Mrs Alderson also stated that the SEN children had never gone
             on the PGL trip. I informed Mrs Alderson that if the children
             wanted to go, then provision must be made for them. I knew
             that PGL catered for physically disabled children and assured
             Mrs Alderson that Boreatton Park had the facilities to support
             inclusion under the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act).”

             Now, when I first read that extract from Mrs Coupe’s statement
             in the leaked disciplinary document, my sympathies were with
             her. Anyone who stands up to protect the interests of a
             minority needs to be listened to, in my view. After all, that has
             been a key argument against the LEA in the Action Group’s
             campaign over the last two years!

             However, such a statement does warrant investigation into the
             thought processes behind it, and so I have made my own
             enquiries on the subject. In the absence of Mrs Alderson, I
             have relied on information from other parties, notably Mrs
             Lancaster, and Ally Duffy at Boreatton Park. To begin with, I
             asked Mrs Lancaster what her viewpoint was on the river
             project and the participation of disabled children. The following
             is a summary of our conversation –

             Firstly, one has to understand what the trip is for, and what it
             involves. This is an educational outing, not a picnic, and
             involves experiments conducted by the children so that they
             can both see and feel the impact of water on the environment.
             For example, one test involves standing in the water and
             measuring the time an object takes to travel over a set
             distance. If a child is unable to walk, it is simply not practical
             to expect them to wade into a river, no matter how small it
             may be. Another important point is the risks involved. Every
             official trip outside the school environs has to be “risk
             assessed”. The children’s health and safety is paramount, and
             so there has to be a system in place for proper checks on the
             environment that the children will meet, and on any equipment
             involved. Also, all school staff have to hold suitably recognised
             qualifications in caring for their charges, as well as the staff


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             operating any equipment at the site in question. The list is
             endless, but the well publicised tragedies in recent years
             highlight the need for such measures. While it may be an
             appointed teacher who leads any expedition outside a school, it
             will always be the Head Teacher who carries the personal
             responsibility in the event of anything going wrong. In the
             case of a river trip, the details of such an event are always well
             publicised to parents beforehand, giving them an opportunity
             to refuse to let their children take part if they wish. Similarly,
             in the case of SEN children, the policy had always been to
             inform them of what the trip would involve, and to suggest
             alternative arrangements that may be better suited to the
             individual needs of their children.

             Okay – so what about PGL? For those who don’t know it, this
             is an organisation that provides “adventure holidays” for young
             people, with the target mainly being schoolchildren. Check out
             their website at The centre used by Marton
             Primary School is at Boreatton Park in Shropshire, and the trip
             has been a popular annual event each summer term for Year 6
             children. I asked Schools Co-ordinator Ally Duffy from PGL
             about Mrs Coupe’s claim that the centre supported physically
             disabled children. She told me that, while the holiday
             accommodation itself does support people with physical
             disabilities, because of the nature of the activities on offer (see
             website), it was not practical to offer any further concession to
             children with physical disabilities. This would vary according to
             the nature of each disability, but there would be no refusal for
             any child wanting to attend. In practice, however, it might
             mean a child having to simply watch their friends from the
             sidelines. Because of this, PGL would normally encourage
             individual parents to make a site visit first to assess whether
             this would be acceptable for their child. PGL did not have any
             specialised lifting equipment, and could not accept any liability
             for injury in the event of a child taking part in an activity for
             which they were not properly prepared.

             The view shared by Beverley Alderson and Lynn Lancaster was
             that PGL catered for the majority of the children in their care,
             and that it was better to go there, and to offer SEN children a
             suitable alternative, rather than to send ALL the children to a
             specialised site that DID cater for disabled children, but with a
             much higher cost to all concerned.

             In the event, as a result of Mrs Coupe’s insistence on SEN
             children being given the opportunity to go to PGL, one boy in a
             wheelchair DID accompany the trip in July 2005. The boy
             (child A) was accompanied by Mrs Norbury (the school’s SEN
             Co-ordinator) and her husband, who not only had to act as the
             boy’s personal carers, but also had to share his bedroom!
             Child A managed to take part in archery and swimming, but
             when it came to canoeing, the trip nearly ended in tragedy…


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             Neither Mrs Norbury nor her husband had any previous
             experience of using a canoe, and child A could not be physically
             assisted by any of the PGL staff (see above). As a result, the
             boy generally dragged himself along the ground whenever he
             could. However, when it came to boarding a canoe, both he
             and Mrs Norbury ended up in the water. In other
             circumstances, this accident may have been seen as comical,
             but it could so easily have been tragic. The question has to be
             asked – was it right that this child should have been placed in
             those circumstances? And whichever the answer, who carried
             the responsibility of making a decision and taking

             But to return to that fateful meeting of Tuesday 7 September –
             in the light of the above information, the situation now takes a
             subtly different perspective: While Mrs Coupe paints herself as
             championing the cause of the disabled minority, she was also
             speaking from the position of the person who has to take
             ultimate responsibility for outside school activities. Her stated
             knowledge of the facilities at Boreatton Park was inaccurate,
             and she is describing a conflict of opinion between herself and
             an existing member of staff who had previous experience to
             bear on both situations. Should she not have allowed Mrs
             Alderson to explain properly why she felt that the SEN children
             had to be treated differently? Bearing this in mind, it becomes
             clear now why Mrs Alderson began to feel some concern about
             the reaction she got from her Head Teacher that day. With Val
             Brookes being the only other person present at that meeting,
             would it not have made better sense for Ruth Coupe to have
             asked the school secretary to wait for them to discuss the
             matter thoroughly, possibly after the other items on the
             agenda had been covered? It appears that she did not do so,
             and instead voiced her personal opinions on the spot. Val
             Brookes also refers to that meeting within her own statement –
             “Mrs Alderson said that they (the SEN children) could not/did
             not normally go. I am aware that this had happened before,
             and I had raised the matter with Mrs Lancaster, who had said
             she would speak to Mrs Alderson and ensure it would not
             happen again.” Mrs Lancaster’s reaction to that statement was

             So, from that date on, a division in both professional and
             personal opinions sealed the fates of the Head Teacher and her
             Assistant. I understand from my interviews with several other
             people more closely associated with the school that there
             continued to be many difficulties over the arrangements for
             that particular trip to PGL. While Mrs Alderson was the
             nominated leader, she relied on Mrs Coupe to sign the
             necessary paperwork, and to make appropriate arrangements
             for child A’s attendance. Perhaps because the new Head had
             not had any experience in that position before, somehow there
             were delays and “misunderstandings” which nearly caused Mrs


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             Alderson to step down as expedition leader in favour of Mrs
             Coupe. It seems (with hindsight) more likely that it was the
             way that their relationship had broken down that caused there
             to be so many difficulties over the administration of PGL 2005.

             The Final Answer, then, comes down to the way in which Mrs
             Coupe conducted herself as Head Teacher in her new school
             within one week of the new term. In my view, and if I were in
             her position, I would have wanted to draw on the experience
             and inside knowledge of the most senior members of my
             leadership team. I would already be aware that the Deputy
             Head had only been there for one full academic year, so it
             would seem sensible to listen to the views of the other member
             of the team – who had been at the school for twelve years –
             and to encourage her confidence and enthusiasm for a new
             management style. Instead, Mrs Coupe allowed a knee-jerk
             reaction to an un-planned incident to colour her professional
             relationship with Beverley Alderson. It is my belief that this
             single event has been the catalyst for everything that followed.
             She behaved unprofessionally on that occasion, causing her
             Assistant Head to view her as someone who may not be the
             right person for the job. (Not an entirely unreasonable
             supposition from someone who had been part of the
             interviewing panel, and who had been given a very different
             impression in February of that year.)

             That “step up” for Ruth Coupe was her nemesis. I feel that she
             became overwhelmed with the responsibilities she took on, and
             that she was (and is) totally out of her depth. I can only
             surmise that her eventual fate will become easier for her to
             adjust to, as the school continues to contract in size. From
             506 in 2004, the total number of pupils has fallen this term to
             around 380… If she continues to hold sway for another couple
             of years, she may well get the school down to a size with which
             she is more familiar.


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                                  CHAPTER SEVEN
             The buck stops here

             It was always my intention, when starting this “personal
             reflection”, to detail as much as possible the events from the
             appointment of Mrs Coupe as Head Teacher through to the
             present day. I am aware that this account has followed a
             strictly chronological pattern over the first academic year 2004
             – 2005, but that the detail of events since August 2005 has
             been provided somewhat piecemeal. This is partly because I
             feel it important to know how the situation developed until it
             became public knowledge just how much of a problem really
             existed at Marton. Since August 2005 I have been very much
             personally involved, and the journey since that date has been
             one of discovery. By its very nature, the story of those
             discoveries has been done in retrospect – much of what I have
             learnt (and shared with others) has only reached me in
             piecemeal fashion, and so the details in previous chapters have
             been categorised according to subject.

             In this chapter, I want to pull together some of the details not
             yet discussed into a picture that sums up where the problem
             ultimately lies: with Blackpool Borough Council. (Okay – I
             agree that bullying head teachers is a national problem, but
             the government already admits that they don’t want to know –
             so the initial burden of responsibility IS with the local authority,
             wherever you happen to be in this country.)

             Let me start with the Action Group: This was formed by myself
             and my ex-wife Jane in October 2005 when we realised the
             need for parents to be able to talk to each other about our
             concerns. We felt that we would have a better chance of
             getting answers to our questions if we acted together, pooled
             our resources, and made it clear to the Council that we had
             legitimate cause to ask what was happening at our children’s
             school. Following some criticism of parents on local radio by
             David Lund, I wrote to him on 12 October 2005:

             “…Those of us who had enjoyed the experience of seeing
             Marton Primary School run by Lynn Lancaster were shocked at
             how suddenly the school had changed – and we wanted to
             know why. There were still several teachers there who had
             also enjoyed happier days before xxxxx arrived, and I was
             horrified to hear from one of them that “we have been told that
             if we are not happy with the situation we have to get out”.
             This was not an isolated story. In sharing my concerns with
             others, I started to hear more and more how xxxxx had
             intimidated any member of staff resistant to change, and
             threatened disciplinary action against anyone voicing their
             feelings outside school. Little wonder that Mr R left after


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             several years of loyal service, even if it was only with the
             promise of a temporary job. These are frightened people,
             Mr Lund! They are crying out for someone to help them.
             Their livelihoods are at stake as well as their principles, and
             they have no confidence in anyone at Progress House because
             they know how much their Head Teacher frequents the place!
             Who can they trust?

             So they leak information to parents – and you know the result.
             I’ve told you all this so that you know we are NOT being a
             “vindictive minority”. These are not idle “troublemakers” (to
             use xxxxx’s words) set to make mischief without good reason.
             Some of those who were involved in the appointment of this
             lady as Lynn Lancaster’s replacement are bitterly regretting
             their recommendation! While I understand that it is entirely
             natural for you, in your official position, to show support for a
             Head Teacher, you also knew Lynn Lancaster over a period of
             years, and knew what sort of person she was. What do you
             know of this woman? Have you thought of asking Mrs
             Lancaster (unofficially, of course) what she feels about her
             replacement? Ask yourself WHY staff are frightened. And if
             they are frightened, what about parents of lesser resolve than
             myself, who fear for their children, worried that they could face
             expulsion for no good reason? These are not groundless fears
             when people look at the situation Mrs A found herself in – and
             we have no knowledge at all about why she was suspended.

             Let me ask you directly – for those parents and members of
             staff who have so desperately wanted to keep their identities
             secret, what guarantees can you give that they would not
             suffer any retribution if they spoke to you in person? How
             could they trust you not to pass on information to a woman
             with such a reputation for manipulation that she now has most
             of the staff at Marton, and 90% of the school governors
             publicly supporting her? What price this minority?”

                                                         “my officers and I are prepared to
                                                         work with you and other parents”

             Mr Lund’s response was to invite me to meet with him at
             Progress House on 18 October 2005. On the surface, it
             appeared to be a fruitful meeting, with Mr Lund conceding that
             parents had valid reasons to be concerned, and appreciating
             that the new website forum helped people to voice their
             thoughts without risk of recrimination. He followed it up with a
             letter to me the following day:

             “…On a fundamental level it would appear that you and I have
             a similar wish with regard to Marton School, in that it needs to
             settle down as soon as possible. With all those concerned with
             the school able to direct 100% of their effort towards the
             education and welfare of the pupils.


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             To this end and in order to ensure that effective
             communication is in place, thus reducing the impact of any
             ‘miscommunication’, my officers and I are prepared to work
             with you and other parents to support or enhance the existing

             I wrote back in similar terms, informing him (as agreed) on the
             outcome of a public meeting to which he had been invited, but
             was unable to attend. Sadly, Mr Lund never responded to my
             letter in any way. So much for “effective communication”…

             One item that we aired at Progress House on that day was the
             issue of pornography (see earlier chapter). The official line
             was that the LEA were satisfied that the incident had been
             handled efficiently within the school, and that appropriate
             action had been taken. However, the impression I got from Mr
             Lund was that he knew a lot less about the details than I did!
             It may be that he was being deliberately vague, but it is
             interesting that, several months later, his recollection of the
             details was rather different from the version provided by the
             witness. On 15 February 2006 Mr Lund wrote to me:

             “…The computer and computer system used at the time was
             investigated and revealed that two websites with idiosyncratic
             names were accessed. The websites were investigated by our
             technicians and the material on them was not declared to be
             pornographic but were blocked in any case immediately to
             prevent any accidental further access. The possibility of
             images being accessed from a CD or pen drive bearing a
             complete website, however, is much more of a probability and
             it is more than likely that this was the case as there was no
             evidence of access of other sites on the system.”

             Mr Lund then went on to say that a much safer filtering system
             was to be placed on the Marton computer system, in response
             to parents’ concerns – just in case! Pornography may be a
             subjective issue – what some consider pornographic would be
             viewed as “glamour” or even “art” by others. But to my mind,
             the sites viewed by that supply teacher were sufficiently
             pornographic as to shock at least two adult teachers. The
             question of whether a CD or pen drive had been used became
             irrelevant when, in the weeks just prior to Mr Lund’s letter to
             me, a hardcore pornographic website was found to have been
             accessed in after-school club. When this was revealed by the
             Action Group in a letter to the school governors on 26
             February, the technicians were sceptical yet again – but tested
             the system and found it to be true.

             What I must hasten to add here is that these were matters that
             the LEA would not have taken any action over if they had not
             been badgered into it by the Action Group! The issue of
             pornography on the school’s computer system was an


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             important one, and Mrs Coupe’s attitude was merely
             exasperation that the person on duty was not taking enough
             care! There was a similar reaction from the Chair of Governors
             (Mike Turner) and the Chief Executive of Blackpool Council
             when the school’s ICT technician was discovered to have used
             a photograph of a schoolgirl on his personal website without
             her knowledge. The parents of the girl were horrified when
             they saw how that particular web page had links to “gay” sites,
             and yet their concerns were given very casual replies. So far
             as I am aware, no disciplinary action was ever taken against
             the technician.

                           “I tried to raise these issues at a Council meeting but was barred
                           from asking any questions regarding Marton School”

             I am personally appalled by the lack of interest shown by most
             members of Blackpool Council to the seemingly casual way that
             parents and staff have been treated on an individual basis. It
             has only been when parents (and other interested parties)
             have banded together under the “Action Group” banner that
             there has been any reasonable reaction. Our first Press
             Release in November 2005 was copied to every Blackpool
             Councillor – and only one responded! That came after David
             Lund was quoted in the local paper as threatening parents with
             legal action for possible defamatory remarks. Former
             Councillor Jon Bamborough takes up the story:

             “My initial thoughts were that for someone to remove their
             child from their school that there must be some real issues
             there. I know that I would be very reluctant to move my
             children away from their friends. I would have to have tried
             everything else first. When I heard David Lund on the radio,
             effectively trying to gag the parents and the Action Group, then
             I knew something was seriously wrong here. I have been a
             governor myself so am not unfamiliar with school procedures.
             I contacted Alan Veale who had just sent a press release to all
             the Councillors and asked to meet him. I was shocked at what
             I was told in our subsequent meeting. What really concerned
             me were three things: (1) The suspension of a senior, well
             respected teacher and trade union rep, (2) the pornography
             allegations and (3) the falling rolls.

             I tried to raise these issues at a Council meeting but was
             barred from asking any questions regarding Marton School. I
             then had a meeting with David Lund who said he could only
             discuss the last two points. However, he didn’t seem to
             understand the real threats posed by the lack of security on
             the computer system. He also misled me, whether
             intentionally or not, on the falling rolls issue. Indeed, it took
             me three attempts before I finally got near the true figures.


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             I also had a meeting with Councillor Ivan Taylor who was very
             condescending towards my fears and repeatedly referred to
             Beverley Alderson as “Betty,” which further extricated any
             confidence I had left in him! I also spoke to several other
             senior officers from the LEA and concluded that I was not going
             to get any answers from official sources.”

             Jon did not waste any time in trying to tackle the issue within
             the Council. As one of the members of the Scrutiny Committee
             that considered matters relating to children’s services, he had
             every right to raise questions directly with David Lund. Then
             there was the issue of cost. While Beverley Alderson remained
             suspended on full pay, there were additional salary costs being
             incurred from the input of supply teachers, not to mention any
             costs involved over the investigation over the suspension itself.
             The longer we waited for this particular issue to be resolved,
             the more the costs would mount up! So whose budget did
             these costs come out of? Would there be any impact on the
             Blackpool tax payers?

             But the Leader of the Council, Chairman of the Committee and
             Councillor Ivan Taylor (portfolio holder for children’s services)
             was having none of it. Whenever Jon tried to ask questions he
             was shouted down by Taylor and his supporters, and told his
             questions were not relevant. David Lund’s responses to Mr
             Bamborough’s questions were always economical with the
             truth, and he was particularly evasive when asked to clarify the
             numbers of pupils who had been withdrawn from Marton by
             their parents. The Action Group did their own research on this,
             and were able to provide a much fuller (and more accurate)
             picture of the actual numbers than Mr Lund ever supplied! In
             the 14 months from October 2004 to December 2005, 50
             pupils were found to have been removed, out of which 42 were
             known by us to have been withdrawn to other schools in the
             area. With his particular flair for presentation, David Lund
             initially claimed that only 23 children had been moved…
             Indeed, the “official” line from Blackpool Borough Council on
             the falling numbers at Marton has been that this merely
             reflects the fall in the local birth-rate figures. However, figures
             recently supplied by the Government show that Blackpool has
             maintained a surplus of 8% over its total number of school
             places since 2004! (The national average is 12% for 2006) So
             – if these figures are to be believed, the only explanation for
             other schools NOT showing a fall in their numbers is that they
             had to take up the surplus of pupils from Marton. Indeed – the
             same source of these statistics showed a drop of 18.4% for
             Marton Primary School over the same period.

             Councillor Bamborough made every effort to maintain an
             impartial and independent stance in his efforts to elicit the
             truth. He contributed to the Forum website inviting anyone
             connected with the school to contact him in private, and to give


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             their version of events. The purpose of this was to use his own
             office to try and ensure that the Council could exercise its
             democratic powers to ensure that the whole situation was
             brought to a satisfactory end as soon as possible. Mr
             Bamborough also tried a direct approach to his fellow Liberal
             Democrat, the Chairman of Governors, Mike Turner. But a
             phone-call in early 2006 resulted in Mr Turner trying to
             dissuade Mr Bamborough from getting involved, whereupon he
             received a polite but firm refusal. Shortly afterwards, Mr
             Turner was anything BUT polite when he called a staff meeting
             at school and forcibly banned any members of staff from
             contacting Mr Bamborough. The words he used were
             slanderous, and provoked several teachers to ignore his
             demands, as they were so disgusted at his behaviour. It was
             at this same meeting that Mr Turner deliberately identified one
             member of staff as being a witness in support of Mrs Alderson
             – thus ensuring that the scheduled hearing for her Grievance
             could not be impartial. From my own experience of Mike
             Turner, I would suggest that this act of his was not deliberately
             malicious, but borne out of his own ignorance of the
             procedures that needed to be followed. Unfortunately, for
             someone holding such a position of responsibility, such
             ignorance is no excuse.

             There was to be a further personal attack on Jon Bamborough
             – this one being (initially) more successful. Over the next few
             months there were several contributions made to the website
             Forum by teachers serving at the school. Where before they
             had been cowed into silence by the threats of disciplinary
             action, several now felt that they were not going to put up with
             that kind of intimidation any longer. Encouraged by the
             intervention of an active Councillor, even Jill Reidy and
             Beverley Alderson decided to put their own side of the story –
             although this was only to be given to Jon Bamborough in the
             first instance. Once he had heard their story, he encouraged
             Steve Weaver, the Chief Executive of Blackpool Council, to
             listen for himself. In the meantime, the “leaks” of what was
             really happening in school were becoming an embarrassment
             to some people, and a campaign to fight back against both
             myself and Councillor Bamborough began in earnest.

             The first attack was aimed at me. Ruth Coupe made a
             complaint to the police that she was being personally harassed
             by me, and stated that wording I had used in one particular
             post on the Forum implied a personal threat. This resulted in a
             phone-call to me from a local police officer, asking for an
             interview. Far from what Mrs Coupe had obviously intended, I
             have never felt less intimidated! The conversation was overtly
             casual and friendly, but intended to make a point. I became
             aware of how Mrs Coupe was viewed by others, and I found
             that the police were anxious to ensure that they did not have
             to act as referees over something that should never have been


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             allowed to reach such an acrimonious stage. I was advised to
             be very careful of the wording I used in my posts, because
             while it was their professional opinion that I had NOT said
             anything wrong, and that I could NOT be said to be personally
             harassing anyone, I should be careful not to allow any further
             possibility of such accusations. The police officer agreed with
             me that Mrs Coupe held a public office, and that I was entitled
             to criticise her in public if I felt it was warranted.

             Shortly afterwards, it was to be Councillor Bamborough’s turn.
             This time it was Ruth Coupe’s husband who made the attack –
             using the facilities of the Standards Board for England. This
             organisation “polices” the activities of public servants, and has
             the power to censure local councillors if it is deemed that they
             are not acting in a manner befitting of their station. Mr Coupe
             lodged a complaint that Councillor Bamborough had used his
             position to make personal attacks on his wife through the
             website Forum. Jon Bamborough again:

             “The Standards Board enquiry was ridiculous. Mr Coupe made
             a number of absurd allegations, which the Standards Board for
             England was bound to investigate. During this investigation
             however, I was legally barred from making any comment
             whatsoever regarding allegations or revealing who had made
             the allegations. Indeed, should I have still been a Councillor, I
             would still be unable to reveal the exact nature of the
             allegations or reveal the name of the person who made them!!!
             However, I am no longer a Councillor and so I am not bound
             by the Standards Board anymore. I can confirm therefore that
             it was Mr Coupe who had made the allegations which were ALL
             dismissed by the Standards Board Investigation. The
             Investigation concluded that I had acted in a proper manner by
             raising the issues that I raised and by asking the questions that
             I asked. They also concluded that my involvement with the
             Marton School Forum (website) was also done in a proper
             manner, befitting a Councillor.”

             It was only shortly after the Standards Board closed their files
             that another attack became apparent: In mid-January 2007
             somebody sent several copies of a confidential file to various
             organisations, including British Sky Broadcasting and the Daily
             Telegraph. Details of this file have been revealed in earlier
             chapters, but the act of releasing it was a major disaster for
             the local authority. Whoever had personally stood at a
             photocopier making several copies of a 100 plus page A4
             document that should have been destroyed months before was
             taking a very deliberate and risky decision. Such an act could
             scarcely be done in the local library at ten pence a sheet, and
             the likelihood of having such facilities in the home is highly
             remote. It would also be unlikely that the document had been
             taken to a commercial printer, with so many of the pages
             marked “confidential”, as is the front page. It has to be


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             assumed that whoever took this bold act had personal access
             to a photocopier inside an office, or even a school… Even in
             those circumstances, whoever did it would have to have been
             someone that no-one was likely to question if found copying
             “confidential” material. Then there is the question of who had
             access to the file in the first place? Even David Lund was
             under the impression that the file had been only issued to a list
             of named persons that had been found with the copied file.
             That list contains 13 names – all governors at Marton School,
             including Mrs Coupe. But in reality, the file had only been
             distributed to a much smaller circle of governors, and to the
             union representative for Mrs Alderson. We can certainly
             discount the latter, as Mrs Alderson was the intended target for
             this attack, so who does that leave?

             Of course, having reported the discovery of the file to the
             police at the end of January, the LEA were soon onto the case,
             and launched an official “investigation” that was about as
             “independent” as that conducted by Linda Marsh (see earlier
             chapter). The report into that investigation has never been
             published, so far as I am aware, but the “unofficial” verdict is
             that it seems likely that the perpetrator was a school governor,
             identity unknown.

             Another coincidence followed in February 2007. Within weeks
             of the discovery of the circulation of the leaked file, I was
             under another personal attack from Mr Coupe. At this stage I
             had not even made public what I had discovered, but Mr Coupe
             suddenly saw fit to again complain about my activities on the
             website Forum. On this occasion, he tried to convince my
             employer that I had been using work facilities to harass his
             wife. His argument (in a phone-call to my Area Manager) was
             that many of the posts I had made on the Forum had been
             done in work time, and that I was clearly using the Internet to
             do so from a computer at my desk. What he did NOT know
             was that I am entitled to do exactly that – during my lunch
             break, which I can take at any time between 12 noon and 2pm.
             My Area Manager politely and firmly told Mr Coupe that such
             activities were not under his control, and that he had no cause
             to discipline me. I was entitled to access the Internet at
             lunchtimes, and so long as I did not let my interest in the
             school interfere with my work, then no action could (or would)
             be taken against me. My boss informed me of his conversation
             after the event, and gave his support should I find myself
             under any further pressures as a result. A few days later he
             also told me that Mr Coupe had followed up his phone-call with
             a letter, basically repeating the same argument! Curiously, I
             later had a THIRD conversation with my boss – this time as a
             result of an email complaint forwarded from Head Office,
             purporting to be from a lady – and again trying to complain
             along the same lines!! (“Some of the same phrases were


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             It is my guess that the Coupe family were getting desperate.
             They wanted so much to stop all the public airing of the
             problems centred around Marton School. The website is a tool
             that has been a thorn in their side for over two years, and they
             were convinced that I was personally responsible for it. In
             fact, my IT skills are far too basic to allow me to claim that
             responsibility, but I do applaud the person or persons who
             HAVE taken on that task. Now that the matter of the leaked
             document has been so publicly aired (partly through the Forum
             and partly through these chapters), there have been no more
             personal attacks.
                                                     “my own conclusions are that there
                                                     has been a massive cover up”

             But the buck finally stops with Blackpool Borough Council. It is
             they who “owned” the leaked file, and who therefore carried
             responsibility to ensure it remained confidential. It was their
             responsibility to investigate who breached that confidentiality,
             how they did it, and why they did it. Similarly, it was the
             Council’s responsibility to ensure that the correct procedures
             were followed in the investigation over Mrs Alderson’s
             suspension. It is the Council that has to authorise expenditure
             on such matters, and to show accountability for the spending
             of public funds. The Council has a dedicated Scrutiny
             Committee that looks into all matters relating to children’s
             education in the borough, and in which democratic debate
             should be seen to be done. The local authority also takes
             responsibility for the appointment of several governors at each
             school in Blackpool, educates them on their duties, and
             appoints a clerk to take accurate minutes of governors’
             meetings. In this, there is a clear path of accountability to
             ensure that all the things that have gone wrong at Marton
             Primary School should NOT have gone wrong – but that where
             it is clear that there have been mistakes, omissions or even
             criminal activity, then it should be made clear to all concerned
             that Blackpool Borough Council has the capacity to admit
             where it went wrong, and to start to put things right.

             I leave the final word on the Council’s activities to Jon

             “Following meetings or conversations with all of the principals
             involved in this saga (from Steve Weaver the Chief Exec, David
             Lund, Ivan Taylor, Roy Fisher, Mike Turner, a number of senior
             council officers, a number of teachers and staff from Marton,
             former and current governors of Marton, members of the
             Action Group, parents who have removed their children etc…….
             almost everyone involved apart from Mrs Coupe!!!!) my own
             conclusions are that there has been a massive cover up of
             issues at Marton School and within the LEA at Blackpool
             Council. All the evidence is there! It just needs an


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             independent, competent person with authority to carry out a
             proper investigation. It is nothing short of a disgrace that so
             many careers have been ruined over this, that the lives of so
             many young people have been disrupted. Someone,
             somewhere should have taken the responsibility for this sham.
             At least Roy Fisher, the former Council Leader, lost his job
             (deservedly so in my opinion). Roy was Chair of Governors at
             Layton school, and it was when I was at a Council meeting that
             it was revealed that Beverley Alderson was working at Layton
             School. I thought because she was working for the LEA again
             her suspension was over, and that I could now ask questions!
             All the Councillors refused to answer any questions and when
             Roy Fisher got home, he rang the Head Teacher of Layton
             School and made it clear that he did not want Beverley
             Alderson working there any more. This is the kind of politics I
             hate and quite frankly, I’m glad to be out of it!”


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             Since September 2004 there have been many, many
             casualties. Teachers, support staff, children, parents,
             husbands, wives, council officers, union representatives and
             more – all have been affected in so many different ways, and
             yet life still goes on. It has to. Each day that the school opens
             its doors there are still children who need to pass through and
             take away whatever they can on their journey towards
             adulthood. What has happened at Marton will not prevent
             children from receiving an education; it will not prevent
             members of staff from taking home a wage. Nor will the
             events at Marton Primary School be of any interest to the
             millions of people around the globe who are more concerned
             with where their next meal is coming from, whether they will
             targeted by a terrorist tomorrow – or even who is going to win
             “The X Factor”…

             But the story of what has been happening in this corner of the
             local community has still touched many lives – and the
             worrying thing from my point of view is how many more it
             could still affect?

             Throughout the pages of the story I have been telling there is
             one clear message: Something went wrong, and it still
             hasn’t been put right. If it had, then there would have been
             no need to share this “personal reflection” with the outside
             world. If I have learnt one thing over the last two years, it has
             been that there can be no faith placed in figures of authority
             that anyone will actually DO anything to put things right. Like
             so many other people involved in both this dispute and in
             others nationally, we have been banging on doors to get
             someone in authority to listen – and the common response
             seems to be one of casual disregard – “I can’t see the problem,
             therefore it does not exist.”

             To be fair, our Members of Parliament in Blackpool South and
             Fylde have both acknowledged that there IS a problem, but
             because the government of the day does not want to know,
             they feel their hands are tied, and so can do nothing.

             Oddly enough, it is widely acknowledged within the media that
             bullying in the workplace is more rampant in the teaching
             profession than anywhere else. The Times Educational
             Supplement regularly runs stories of teachers being bullied by
             head teachers, with limited support from their unions. The sort
             of thing that has been happening at Marton is only one incident
             in a long-running national story – and still it is ignored by the


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                                       School Retort

             And yet even the sternest cynic can not ignore the message
             that comes out of this particular story: We have seen how
             Marton Primary School functioned without incident for over 12
             years, with government statistics and inspections confirming its
             status as being an effective part of the community; we have
             seen a dramatic change in the attitudes of its members of staff
             since September 2004, and a sharp rise in the number of staff
             leaving; we have seen a dramatic plunge in the numbers of
             pupils on the school roll; we have heard alarming stories of the
             way in which the school has been governed, and rumours of
             corruption within the Council itself – a Council which publicly
             maintains that the problems at the school are now resolved.
             But they are NOT resolved. It is still the case that something
             went wrong, and it still hasn’t been put right.

             If it were TRUE that the problems HAD been resolved, then we
             would have seen a totally different story since September
             2005: According to the statement made by Mrs Coupe just one
             month before, Beverley Alderson had been the root cause of
             the problem, and it was claimed that “the atmosphere lifted”
             once she was no longer on the premises. By that time, Mrs
             Alderson’s “fellow conspirators” Jill Reidy, Janet Connor and
             Lisa Taylor had all either been removed, or been signed off
             with stress. So – no excuse then for the whole school not to
             start to get back to “normality” from that point on, especially
             with the total (and very public) backing of the LEA. There was
             even the Post-OfSTED Action Plan to use as a guide, where the
             vision of the head teacher was applauded – so long as
             everyone backed her.

             So why didn’t they back her? Why did parents continue to
             remove their children? Why did staff still look for other
             teaching posts? The fact remains – something went wrong,
             and it still hasn’t been put right.

             And now we have to face up to the consequences: The school
             is still in a mess. Those staff that remain have recently been
             told by their Head that none of them are to be recognised for
             promotion this year because “none of them are good enough”…
             How does that reflect on the woman who is supposed to be
             their mentor? The numbers of pupils on the school roll are
             barely sufficient to maintain staff numbers at their present
             level. Any further reduction will result in someone losing their
             job. The atmosphere at Marton Primary School has NOT lifted
             – and precious few members of staff are singing the praises of
             their Head Teacher – who hides behind the door of her office
             even more than she used to.

             What will happen next? Well – depending on who you are and
             where you sit, the answer is very much up to you. If you are a
             Blackpool Councillor, you could try asking questions. After all,
             there have been some changes of personnel in that quarter, so


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                                       School Retort

             maybe you might be more successful this time; if you are a
             governor at Marton School, you could ask yourself whether
             your own personal input has helped improve the situation or
             not; if you are a parent of a child at Marton School, perhaps
             you need to seriously ask yourself whether your child is getting
             the right standard of education there.

             And what about everyone else? Suppose you have no
             connection to the school whatsoever, why should you take any
             interest? Well – how about this: It is my contention that the
             people who govern this country (or any country) all started to
             learn their first impressions of the world and their place in it
             from a teacher at primary school. Those first impressions
             count, believe me. “Give me a girl at an impressionable age,
             and she is mine for life” is the oft quoted phrase from “The
             Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”. All that a child absorbs in those
             early years helps to shape their attitudes to life, to the world,
             and to everyone they meet. So what if they are mis-led?
             What happens if the standard of the education they are given
             is allowed to slip? What does happen to a group of children
             who lose their friends because their parents mysteriously
             remove them? What if the only children left are from homes
             where the parents really don’t give a damn what goes on in
             school anyway?

             This (in my opinion) is what is now being allowed to happen at
             Marton, and will inevitably have a wider impact on the
             community. Blackpool already stands charged as a town full of
             tat, with depressing images of drunken louts, graffiti splattered
             buildings and litter-strewn streets. It is becoming known as a
             town in decline, and desperately needs to polish up its present,
             tarnished image. That can not be achieved just by cosmetic
             camouflage, brightening up the tourist spots and town centre.
             This used to be a place “where people come first” – but the
             attitude I have met from Blackpool Council since September
             2005 is just the opposite.

             It starts with a child. A child should be allowed to grow up
             learning all the wonders of life, associating with others and
             learning how to relate to them. A child should learn about both
             love and hate, about good and about evil, and be guided on the
             right path to take. Where that child meets confrontation, it
             should learn how to resolve it. We are taught that this is a
             civilised world, a democratic world where everyone is entitled
             to voice their opinions – and not one where the bully should

             In September 2004, the bullying started at Marton Primary
             School. Something went wrong, and it STILL hasn’t been
             put right.


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                                       School Retort


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