TEACHERS at a primary school wept as they described allegations of bullying and harassment by its headteacher.

Staff at Selwyn School in Cavendish Road, Highams Park, called a public meeting last night after they voted unanimously to go on strike next Tuesday (May 24) over the "dictatorial" style of acting consultant head Maureen Okoye.

The school's official head Robert Highsted has been absent for many months due to a long term illness, and Ms Okoye was drafted in to help run the school back in January.

She brought in a raft of changes but alienated staff by being rude, arrogant and unprofessional, it is claimed.

Teachers told a packed public meeting attended by more than 200 parents that Ms Okoye also threatened staff with the sack if they raised concerns to school governors and it was also alleged she ordered staff to fix the school's internal system of grading pupils.

Ms Okoye has declined to comment but Waltham Forest Council has waded in to the row, saying it does not believe the claims.

At the meeting last night (May 16) one senior member of staff told parents: "There is total demoralisation among teachers and many times I have seen them leave the staff room in tears.

"The first time I heard her speak to them at the morning briefing my jaw dropped. The harassment and intimidation is indiscriminate."

Another teacher said: "She is very unprofessional and the bullying affects everyone in the school.

"When she arrived at the school she graded 40 per cent of teachers [as] inadequate. But a few weeks later we had an Ofsted inspection and some of the same teachers were rated 'good' and 'outstanding'.”

Waltham Forest National Union of Teachers secretary Rinaldo Frezzato said staff wanted Ms Okoye to leave.

Her decision not to renew the temporary teaching contracts of eight staff allegedly without explanation was also criticised.

Parents at the meeting were generally supportive of the teachers but a minority said Ms Okoye had improved the school.

Ms Okoye is also the head of Davies Lane School in Leytonstone.

In an Ofsted report published in December 2010 it was rated “good” while her leadership was praised as “exceptional”.

Cllr Saima Mahmud, the council's cabinet member for children and young people, said: "The council utterly refutes any suggestion of bullying or harassment by management at the school but we are in talks with the NUT to discuss the issues it is concerned about and we are looking to ACAS to try and resolve matters.

"We hope mediation will be able to take place on May 20.”


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