Former high school head quits new job

PUBLISHED: 16:25 06 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:37 03 March 2010

A FORMER Felixstowe headmistress, who left the town under a cloud with teachers on the brink of industrial action, has quit her new £65,000-a-year job after just 12 months.

A FORMER Felixstowe headmistress, who left the town under a cloud with teachers on the brink of industrial action, has quit her new £65,000-a-year job after just 12 months.

Allison Fraser left Orwell High School after a long dispute with staff which escalated into a situation where they refused to do some duties.

She dramatically quit the 1,000-pupil school in Maidstone Road for a "career move" just before education chiefs were called in – and took up a new prestige post in the north-east.

She spent a year overseeing the merger of three secondary schools into one, and battled with parents angry at changes she proposed – similar changes to those which sparked mums and dads' fury at Orwell.

But now, just days after the project opened for the first time, she has been forced to resign because her husband has had a major heart attack and his prognosis is poor.

"Family ill-health has resulted in my decision to stop work," said Mrs Fraser.

"Shortly after my arrival here, my husband John suffered a major heart attack.

"He is still at home and I have been travelling each week for the past year to care for him whilst at the same time preparing for the creation of Freebrough Community College.

"Given his continued ill-health, I am unable to move permanently to East Cleveland.

"I am extremely disappointed I will not be here to develop the vision further for Freebrough, particularly as we move towards consultation on continued development of the college under the City Academy initiative.

"It is a great opportunity for the families of Freebrough and its feeder primary schools to create a modern, first class learning environment.

"I leave Freebrough in the very capable hands of its three directors who have shared and shaped the vision."

Mrs Fraser was principal of East Cleveland's Freebrough Community College, a 1,300-pupil facility combining De Brus Skelton, Warsett Brotton and Rosecroft, Loftus schools in a new scheme sharing facilities, staff and hi-tech equipment. It is one of the first of its type in the country.

She was on a salary of around £55,000 a year plus for two years a £10,000 extra award from the government as the project was an Education Action Zone scheme.

She was appointed because of her high-quality leadership skills and ability to work with teachers, parents and pupils to produce a clear vision for their schools' future.

Her first year in the project was marred by angry parents' opposition to sweeping timetable changes and also school start and finish times.

Parents were furious at the possibility of late starts and early finishes and half-hour lunch breaks in a 27-hour school week to allow for staff training and key education sessions.

They organised a 1,200 signature petition against the move as they said this would lead to inadequate lunch breaks and their children being unsupervised for long periods, and a compromise was reached.

Mrs Fraser suffered opposition from some parents at Orwell, where she was head for five years until June last year, when she made changes to the times of the school day.

But her biggest dispute was with 80 teachers. The NUT made a formal complaint about her style of management, alleging that teachers confronted by violent pupils lacked her support.

The school was said to be on the brink of industrial action and at one point teachers refused to give lunch break cover.

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