Headteacher slams Gavin Williamson after 'chaotic' week

Adam Mason

Fakenham Junior School headteacher Adam Mason, left, has written an open letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson after going through what he said has been his most chaotic week in 25 years of teaching. - Credit: Supplied by Adam Mason / Archant

A junior school headteacher has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson after enduring his most "chaotic, exhausting and challenging" week in 25 years of teaching. 

Adam Mason, headteacher at Fakenham Junior School, said teachers felt unsupported and let down by Mr Williamson and the Department for Education.

Mr Mason - who emphasised these were his personal views and not those of the school or Synergy, the academy trust it is part of - said in a letter to Mr Williamson: "This week has been like no other I have ever experienced.

Fakenham Junior School headteacher Adam Mason.

Fakenham Junior School headteacher Adam Mason. - Credit: Supplied by Adam Mason

"I accept that we are in unprecedented times, however, I believe most people think that the way in which education staff and leaders, and also parents and children, are being treated by you and your department is not right.

"I have gone through a range of emotions and feelings this week from, confusion and bewilderment to anger, frustration and simply being upset." 


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 Mr Mason said he was particularly upset Mr Williamson told parliament that parents could complain to Ofsted if they felt their school was falling short, which he said was "dangerous and unfair". 

He said: "Whilst you did not incite parents to march upon their schools you did feed into a minority of the community who now believe that if their demands, many of which are unreasonable and unattainable, are not immediately met then they can use Ofsted as a battering ram and further threaten to us all.

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"This is dangerous and unfair. It indicates that you and your department are also anxious, confused and in disarray."

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Mason said staff morale had been damaged by the government’s actions and he had called on parents to write thank-you notes to their children's teachers to help keep their spirits up. 

In normal times, the school teaches about 315 pupils.  
Mr Mason said they had space on site to teach 120 keyworker and vulnerable children although they had identified more than 140 who would fall into those categories. 
He said attendance over the past few days had been around 70-80 - a huge rise on the first lockdown, when they usually had fewer than 10 pupils each day. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We understand this is a challenging time for schools and parents and we are grateful to the heads, teachers and school staff across the country who have worked throughout the pandemic to maintain children’s education and help keep them safe.

“Closing schools to the majority of pupils was a last resort, as it remains a national priority to keep children in education and we have announced a package of support to help education leaders at this time."

Mr Mason's letter in full

Open letter to The Secretary of State for Education, Mr Williamson.

Dear Mr Williamson,

I am writing to you personally, not as a representative of my school or MultiAcademy Trust, however I hope I am echoing the feelings of many education leaders in our country.

This week has been like no other I have ever experienced. It has been chaotic, exhausting and more challenging than anything I have faced during my 25 years in the teaching profession.

I accept that we are in unprecedented times, however, I believe most people think that the way in which education staff and leaders, and also parents and children, are being treated by you and your department is not right.

I would not currently want to be doing your job, conversely, I don’t believe you would want the job as a headteacher or CEO or a multi-academy trust at present.

I have gone through a range of emotions and feelings this week from, confusion and bewilderment to anger, frustration and simply being upset.

I am a well-adjusted, and reasonably steady person, emotionally, and I want to state I have been well supported by the leaders and headteachers in my Trust, the leadership of the Local Authority in which my Trust presides, local headteacher organisations, my union and my staff. However, I have not felt supported by you or the DfE.

You may not be my direct line manager, but in the end, you are the person all staff who work in education answer to. Therefore, I believe you have a duty of care towards all of us.

On Wednesday you stood up in Parliament and laid out your expectations of the sector; I accept this.

What I take offence to is the fact that you chose to use the threat of OFSTED once more against schools and their leaders.

Whilst you did not incite parents to march upon their schools you did feed into a minority of the community who now believe that if their demands, many of which are unreasonable and unattainable, are not immediately met then they can use OFSTED as a battering ram and further threaten to us all. I wonder how OFSTED, the independent inspectorate, feel about this?

This is dangerous and unfair. It indicates that you and your department are also anxious, confused and in disarray. Like the DfE, all education staff and leaders want the best for the children in their care; it is within our DNA.

Hence, I urge you to work with us, guide and lead us, but more importantly understand clearly what we are currently trying to do.

Mr Biden, President elect for the USA, said this week that great leaders have the ability to inspire; inspiration from the Department for Education is needed now more than ever.

Despite all that I have written, I truly hope that you have got the support you require, both personally and professionally, during this difficult time.

A leader is only as strong as the team around them. Please remember that all the staff, in all the education institutions in England, are part of your team.

Yours sincerely, Adam Mason Headteacher Fakenham Junior School



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