A LEADING headteacher hailed as one of the best in East Lancashire has resigned with a stinging attack on the country’s education system.
Stewart Plowes of Avondale Primary School, Darwen said that the Department for Education and Ofsted were to blame for creating a ‘culture of assessment’ and ‘ignoring pupils’ needs’.
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He said other headteachers in the region were also actively considering their positions and that more resignations could follow in the coming months.
Mr Plowes, who has been at the Durham Road school since April 2012, was part of the elite group of ‘National Leaders of Education’, helping other schools to improve, until January.
The head, who has had 13 years’ experience running primary schools, said: “I’m absolutely devastated to be leaving a school I think is brilliant and has wonderful pupils and staff members.
“I have made this decision after a great deal of soul searching and it has been a massive privilege to be the headteacher here.
“However, I’m not the right person to lead it forward as I can’t promote educational philosophies that I don’t believe in.”
The National Union of Teachers blasted the education system for having a ‘retention crisis’ and said the number of teachers stating they want to leave the profession was just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
As headteacher at Turton and Edgworth CE Methodist Controlled Primary School prior to his move to Avondale, Mr Plowes leadership skills were judged to be ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in both 2005 and in 2008.
The 50-year-old said he has been considering his position since inspectors downgraded Avondale to ‘requires improvement’ from ‘good’ last November, a conclusion that has been slammed as ‘extremely harsh’.
The education watchdog criticised the governors, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as well as the pupils’ outcomes.
Parents at the school gates yesterday said Mr Plowes was ‘fantastic’ and it was a ‘massive shame’ that he was stepping down.
Mr Plowes said: “Schools are being asked to act more like social services and to take care of children’s medical health, which at times is very frightening.
“The regulations set down by Ofsted are harsh and don’t allow a school to express itself during inspections.
“There is a very strong culture of assessment now and things that really impact on children like music and art are being left behind.
“School governors, who are amazing volunteers, are being asked to do more and more and it’s an accident waiting to happen.
“I’m not the only one who isn’t happy with the education system. I know of a number of headteachers who are seriously considering their positions.”
Mr Plowes, whose wife Joy joined the school in September as the Year Two teacher, qualified as a teacher in 1991 and has also previously taught in Chorley and Blackpool.
He announced his decision to resign in a letter to parents on Tuesday stating that the role was ‘completely different’ to what it once was and that he wasn’t prepared to ‘jump through hoops to answer poorly-formed educational philosophies’.
Parent Louise Kirzdorf, who has a daughter in Year Three, said: “It’s really sad that he’s going but I understand the reasons why.
“You can’t pretend to support something and have to bring in changes that you disagree with.”
Former pupil Lee Dwyer, who has a daughter in reception, said: “I’m absolutely gutted because I think that he’s brilliant.
“I have never heard any complaints about him and he has really improved the school.”
John Bentley , chairman of the school governors for 20 years, said: “He has been a credit to the school and I’m devastated.
“The last Ofsted inspection was extremely harsh and did not reflect the school at all.
“At heart he’s a teacher who cares so much about the development of the pupils but the role of headteacher now is more about being a business manager and not a teacher.
“The school’s results have been consistently improving since he joined and he will be really missed.”
The process to find a successor has already started and it’s hoped that a replacement will be secured by the end of April to start in September.
Mr Plowes will leave his position at the end of the summer term and has confirmed that he has no other position lined up.
The NUT said one in 10 teachers left the profession in the 12 months to November 2014.
According to a YouGov poll in October 2015, 53 per cent of teachers were thinking about leaving their roles.
Simon Jones, who represents the NUT in East Lancashire, said: “The number of the teachers leaving the profession at the moment is just the tip of the iceberg.
“This is extremely worrying and I have every sympathy for the situation Mr Plowes finds himself in.
“He has a reputation for being one of the best headteachers in the region and if this can happen to him then it can happen to anyone.
“Ofsted are picking on North West schools because a lot aren’t academies and they are being the subject of political attacks.
“Everybody should be extremely worried by this and parents should come together to help put a stop to this nonsense.”
The National Association of Headteachers, of which Mr Plowes is a member, said that it would ‘not be appropriate’ to comment.
Cllr Dave Harling, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for education, said: “I’m sorry to hear about Stewart going.
“I can understand his comments because the Ofsted regulations are forever changing making it very difficult for headteachers and whole schools to interpret what they require.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Parents rightly expect us to ensure that their children are leaving primary school having mastered literacy and numeracy and that is why we have tests at the end of Key Stage Two.”
Ofsted declined to comment.