Heads’ resignations spark concern over two Stevenage schools

THE leader of a council has called an urgent meeting to discuss concerns over the future of two secondary schools which have seen their headteachers resign.

Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, says she hopes to meet with Justin Donovan, chief education officer at Herts County Council (HCC), this week to discuss the current state of Barnwell School and Marriotts School in Stevenage.

In December last year, the Comet reported that Vivien Swaida, head of Barnwell, was at the centre of several allegations made by teachers concerning staffing issues.

A formal investigation was launched by the school’s board of governors, who worked closely with HCC, the local education authority.

Ms Swaida, who took over Barnwell in 2009, was on long-term sick leave when the investigation was launched and has now resigned.

Today (Wednesday) HCC refused to disclose the outcome of the investigation.

“The local authority is supporting the school in continuing to improve standards and achievement at the school,” said a spokesman.

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“Part of this support has been the provision of an experienced headteacher to help the school’s management team in the immediate future.”

Ms Swaida said: “I suffered an unexpected illness which required major surgery and a lengthy period of recuperation. I have now made a full recovery.

“During my absence the school has moved forward. To ensure continuity for the staff, students and the wider community of parents and carers, I have decided it is an appropriate time for me to move on and seek new opportunities and challenges in my career.”

Patrick Marshall stepped down as head of Marriotts in February due to personal reasons, after 10 years at the helm.

The secondary school is currently undergoing a �43m redevelopment scheme which will house pupils at the current site as well as those at nearby Lonsdale School for children with physical and neurological disabilities.

Cllr Taylor said the resignation of Mr Marshall and changes to Marriotts’ governing body seemed “an odd thing to do in the middle of a major redevelopment”.

Speaking about the two schools, she said: “I have asked for an urgent briefing. I’m concerned because there have been a lot of things going on and it’s very important that we understand why. If it’s confidential, then they need to say so.

“I am concerned we have these major changes happening.”

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