U.K. reporter provokes backlash from teachers for running hatchet job on local head

There’s a lazy form of news story that crops up in the U.K. from time to time. A headteacher, usually new to the post, will attempt to turn a school around by enforcing some of its rules. This will annoy a few students and parents. A journalist then writes up these complaints, naming the school and publicly shaming the head.

There is a problem of balance here. As a public servant, the headteacher is in no position to rebut or add context to the specific claims that are made. So the claims just hang there. Obviously, a responsible journalist should seek out other parents and students to triangulate the views of a few, but that rarely happens.

In a recent case, a headteacher had announced plans to leave his post at a school and move on to another school. A local journalist saw some negative comments on Facebook and decided that there was a story in this. Apparently, a small group of parents and former students were unhappy with the headteacher enforcing uniform rules.

The piece was originally titled, “Parents and former pupils say ‘good riddance’ to former headteacher…” In a twist to the usual tale, it provoked a massive backlash in the paper’s own comments section and on social media. Since the backlash, the paper in question has closed the comments (huh?), renamed the article and edited it slightly.

Despite being happy to name and shame a public servant in the local rag, the journalist in question seems uncomfortable with the public criticism it has provoked. This is, perhaps, a double standard.

I am not aware of any online criticism that was abusive towards the journalist but if there was any then I strongly condemn it. I have seen a lot of comments that fairly and reasonably criticise the article and voice support for the headteacher concerned.

Bear in mind that the school in question was marked as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted when this headteacher took over and has improved since. So there are plenty who are prepared to speak up on his behalf.

I think this episode demonstrates the emerging relationship between old and new media. The tired, easy journalism of the past is now open to public scrutiny in a way not previously seen. You can’t silence critics by simply closing your comments section.


3 thoughts on “U.K. reporter provokes backlash from teachers for running hatchet job on local head

  1. Just to make it clear to people…

    Mr Lock took over in September 2015. The school was inspected in November 2015 and the report noted that……

    “The degree of improvement in examination results for 2015 led to a Department for Education Regional Commissioner’s award acknowledging high performance.”

    This was before Mr Lock arrived.

    Ofsted report also said….

    “The provisional information for 2015 shows a sharp improvement in examination results for almost all subjects, including English and mathematics, when compared to 2014.”

    This was before Mr Lock arrived.

    Ofsted report also said….

    “The headteacher has been in post from September 2015. Ably supported by the executive headteacher, previously the headteacher, and a leader who has tenaciously pursued improvement, the already firmly established and rigorous plan for academy development has been further deepened.”

    Mr Lock seems to have continued to following the excellent work that was being done prior to his arrival and which had shown a sharp increase in results prior to his arrival.

    Ofsted said….

    “The ethos of improvement is fully shared. In the online survey of staff views undertaken by Ofsted, there was unanimous agreement that the academy had improved since the last inspection.”

    I guess “since previous inspection” did inclde Mr Lock’s 3 months but let us not let him take all the credit.

    Making changes in any school takes a good deal of time and while I am sure Mr Lock is a nice chap and he achieved positive things at the school, your assessment seems to extrapolate beyond that which is reasonable. I am sure people are happy to speak up on his behalf, indeed you are one. Then there are a number of UK tweeters who have congruent views to those of Mr Lock.

    Personally I don’t think the article in the local rag was any more biased than your post here. People should read both, and the Ofsted report, and make up their own minds based upon the “evidence”, a concept of which I believe you are fond.

    If there was a hatchet job, I am not sure your attempt at a hatchett job is any more defensible. I am sure you know your motives for writing the post. Others can guess.

    1. There was also a comment from a student who left before Mr Lock joined. In interest of fairness then the old head should’ve been named as this student’s comment related to the old head.

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