A HEADTEACHER has been suspended over allegations of bullying and harassment against staff and pupils at a primary school.

Annie Owens, who is in charge of St Alban’s RC Primary School, Trinity Street, Blackburn, is understood to have been suspended amid claims of inappropriate conduct with staff and children.

A joint union letter from ATL, GMB, NUT and Unison was posted to every member of the school’s governing body earlier this week containing more than 20 separate allegations of incidents.

Canon Tony McBride from the Salford Diocese confirmed Mrs Owens had been suspended on Wednesday ‘without prejudice, pending an investigation by the governors into certain allegations placed before them.’ Unions have commended Blackburn with Darwen Council and the governing body for their ‘swift’ action and are working with education bosses to carry out a full investigation.

Jim McDermott, GMB regional organiser said: “We expect a full and transparent investigation into these allegations and its outcome.

“Our members expect full protection through the whistle blowers legislation for coming forward.”

NUT national executive and Blackburn with Darwen representative Simon Jones said: “I can confirm that some of our members as well as GMB, Unison and ATL have made complaints about bullying and harassment and we know of some issues with regards to children.”

The education body issued a statement from Canon Tony McBride which said: “I can confirm that Mrs. Annie Owens, headteacher of St. Alban’s R C Primary School, Blackburn has been suspended, without prejudice, pending an investigation by the Governors into certain allegations placed before them.

“Meanwhile the Diocese of Salford and Blackburn with Darwen Local Authority are giving full support and advice to the Governors in an attempt to ensure that the education of the children is not unduly affected.”

Coun Maureen Bateson, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for children’s services, added: ”We were made aware of this suddenly this week. It has been done with the chair of governors and the diocese in consultation with the council.”

In the school’s last Ofsted report in May 2010 the 247 pupil school it was rated as satisfactory.

Ofsted inspectors said: “St Alban's RC Primary is an improving school and provides a satisfactory quality of education for its pupils.

“Behaviour is good and harmonious relationships exist between the different age, religious and ethnic groups.

“Under the energetic and determined leadership of the new headteacher, there has been a concerted effort to boost pupils' achievement. “ In commenting about the school’s leadership the report said: ”The headteacher provides strong direction for the school and both staff and governors share her ambitious agenda for long-term improvement.”

Mrs Owens could not be contacted for comment.