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Leopold Primary School head steps down with immediate effect bringing end to strike action

PUBLISHED: 11:37 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:42 21 March 2018

Embattled headteacher Audrey Kendall, pictured at the opening of the Kendall building that takes her name in 2012.

Embattled headteacher Audrey Kendall, pictured at the opening of the Kendall building that takes her name in 2012.

Archant

The headteacher of Harlesden’s Leopold Primary School has stepped down with immediate effect as part of a deal struck to end the threat of teachers’ strikes.

Leopold Primary School protest (Picture: Jonathan Goldberg)Leopold Primary School protest (Picture: Jonathan Goldberg)

As late as last night, unions had been locked in 11th hour discussions with Brent Council over planned industrial action, which had been mooted to go ahead until tomorrow.

Tuesday’s walkout was called off at the last minute, while negotiations ran so close to the wire the following day that teachers were told to come to work today not knowing whether they would be working.

Parents were told late last night that the school would remain open regardless because supply teachers had been sourced to replace staff if necessary.

But a deal struck between the National Education Union (NEU) and Brent Council, detailed in a letter handed out yesterday morning, agreed:

Leopold Primary School protest (Picture: Jonathan Goldberg)Leopold Primary School protest (Picture: Jonathan Goldberg)

The union will be allowed access to a report suppressed by the council into allegations of “bullying and harassment” by embattled head Audrey Kendall

Ms Kendall would step down immediately. She had already announced her retirement earlier this month but was due to finish on Thursday next week;

Disciplinary action lodged by Ms Kendall against teachers who had originally filed grievances against her will be withdrawn if they are deemed not to comply with “agreed procedures”.

Tensions had run high during a turbulent week, with parents bitterly divided and unsure day-to-day whether each successive instalment of the strike would go ahead.

Leopold Primary School will have two sites in Hawkshead Road, left, and Brentfield RoadLeopold Primary School will have two sites in Hawkshead Road, left, and Brentfield Road

The Parents, Teachers and Friends Association (PTFA) issued a statement on Friday appealing for community cohesion and saying “personal attacks and a general lack of respect” within the parent body were regrettable.

“We’re confident that you share our desire to move forward and create a united and happy school where our children can thrive,” it read.

Police were called on Wednesday last week as parents and ex-parents waving placards naming “rogue” teachers and supporting retiring headteacher Audrey Kendall blocked the pavement at the Hawkshead Road site.

A former parent with a megaphone shouted: “If the NEU decides to strike, we can confidently say that they will not have any pavement space because we will have every single parent out here.

“It is not the NEU that runs the school – it’s the parents that run the school. If the teachers want to walk out, we can have the students walk out. Brent needs to wake up on this matter.”

Parents were forced to flee from alternative exits with their terrified children and the home of one of the school’s senior leaders was targeted by shouting protestors.

In a letter to parents, who have been rocked by multiple allegations of bullying and mismanagement by Mrs Kendall, chair of governors Kofi Baah condemned “any intimidation and harassment of staff”.

Mrs Kendall, who announced her retirement days after the Brent&Kilburn Times reported the allegations, had also appealed for calm.

She wrote in a letter to parents: “I am really looking forward to the celebration of my 30 years at Leopold Primary School on March 24 and to enjoy my final two weeks. I therefore request that those last two weeks are celebratory and that there are no further protests outside the school.

“My senior leadership and I condemn any bad behaviour including intimidation and harassment by anyone.”

A fireworks display to mark her retirement at the school’s Gwenneth Rickus site had been due to take place on Saturday.

As reported by the Times on March 7, 13 staff members submitted formal grievances against Ms Kendall in October.

An independent investigator was appointed by the then chair of governors to look into the allegations. According to the NEU, the investigator’s report was sent to council officers and the school’s governing body in December – but still hasn’t been released.

Some of those teachers have been on leave since the allegations were made, but the Times understands they returned to work for the first time on Tuesday.

Phil Pardoe, NUE regional officer, said; “The council has informed us that Audrey Kendall will be working from home for the rest of the week and will leaving from effect on Monday.

“In the meantime, for the three days remaining, a head teacher will be in the school. From next week the replacement headteacher, Rose Ashton, will be in the school on a permanent basis.”

Ms Ashton is the headteacher of Chalkhill Primary School, in Barnhill Road, Wembley.

He added: “In the agreed settlement the NEU will see the report, the members who put in grievances will know the outcome of the investigation, the attempts to victimise members are rescinded.

“We are extremely happy with the settlement which gives us virtually 95pc of what we wanted.

“We look forward to working with Ms Ashton.”

Brent Council has been contacted.

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