A much-loved headteacher has taken long-term sick leave, apparently because he is suffering from stress, after being criticised by Ofsted inspectors, MailOnline has learned.
Simon Wallis, hailed as ‘inspirational’ by the controversial schools watchdog just a few years ago, is not expected back at work after Barnacre Road primary school, Longridge near Preston, was placed in special measures and dropped from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ in this week’s report.
The news follows the shocking case of Berkshire head Ruth Perry, 53, who killed herself in January after her school dropped from outstanding to inadequate – an experience she called the worst day of her life.
Mr Wallis, in his fifties and in post for 20 years, was honoured for his work with an invitation to a Buckingham Palace Garden party last May.
Parents are angry at the Ofsted report and believe he is being forced out of his job after inspectors deemed him unable to ‘bring about much-needed change’.
Head teacher of Barnacre Road primary school Simon Wallis (pictured) has taken long-term sick leave after his school dropped from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ in an Ofsted report
‘The inspection process has robbed my son’s school of an excellent leader at a time when the school needs security and good leadership,’ one parent, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline.
‘It’s important that checks are made on schools to ensure pupil safety, but the stress on all staff attached to these inspections has to be lessened.
‘I’m sure the sad case in Berkshire and this one are only the tip of the iceberg.’
The parent added that they had been told that Mr Wallis was off sick because he was ‘dealing with stress.’
The damning Ofsted report found the school inadequate in three out of five key areas: leadership and management; quality of education and early years’ provision.
The inspectors concluded: ‘Leadership of the school has deteriorated since the last inspection’, describing the performance of leaders and governors as ‘lax’, especially in special educational needs (SEND) provision.
‘Leaders have been too passive in checking on the learning and achievement of these pupils,’ said the inspectors, David Spruce and Katie Hague.
They added: ‘Leaders are overly reliant on further support from the local authority to make the necessary improvements. They do not have the capacity to bring about much-needed change.’
Barnacre Road primary school (pictured), Longridge near Preston, was placed in special measures and dropped from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ in this week’s report
Parents were handed the bombshell news of the ‘gruelling’ inspection in a letter this week from new ‘superhead’ Jo Banks, and chair of governors Councillor Rupert Swarbrick.
‘It is with sadness that we have to report that Barnacre Road has been graded as Inadequate overall. Governors and staff are hugely disappointed with the outcome of the report and it will undoubtedly be disappointing for you as parents.’
Back in February, parents feared the worst a shortly after the Ofsted inspection, when they were suddenly sent a letter from Ms Banks telling them that Mr Wallis was on ‘long term sickness absence’, until at least Easter and was ‘unlikely to return in the Summer term.’
In a letter following a 2019 inspection of Barnacre Road which judged it ‘Good’, Ofsted wrote to Mr Wallis quoting one parent saying the school ‘is led by an inspirational headteacher who still puts the children at the heart of everything.
‘There is mutual respect between staff and pupils. Barnacre Road gets the right balance between academia, social skills, creativity and emotional well-being.’
Last May, Mr Wallis was delighted to be invited to Buckingham Palace for a garden party after being given the prestigious High Sheriff of Lancashire award for a 2018 educational project he led commemorating the centenary of the Armistice.
‘The Great War Remembered’, written by Mr Wallis, was a spectacular production involving the local community and 700 pupils from not only Barnacre Road, but ten other primaries and two secondary schools.
His subsequent invitation to Buckingham Palace was delayed by Covid.
Parents feared the worst a shortly after the Ofsted inspection, when they were suddenly sent a letter from Ms Banks telling them that Mr Wallis was on ‘long term sickness absence’
Following Ms Perry’s death, the National Education Union, school leaders’ union NAHT and the Association of School and College Leaders all called for inspections to be halted, but the Department for Education insisted that inspections were ‘hugely important’.
A statement from her family said: ‘We are in no doubt that Ruth’s death was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school.
‘We do not for an instant recognise Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ judgement as a true reflection of Ruth’s exemplary leadership or of the wonderful school she led.’
They accused inspectors of reaching conclusions that were ‘sensationalist and drawn from scant evidence’.
And Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘Something has to change.
‘Whilst it should never take a tragedy like this to prompt action, this has to be a watershed moment.’
Ruth Perry (pictured) took her own life in January after being told Ofsted were going to downgrade her school to inadequate
Lancashire County Council issued a statement from the Barnacre Road school’s Associate Head Jo Banks, who said: ‘Everyone is bitterly disappointed with the overall rating, though were pleased to be rated ‘good’ in two categories.
‘We will strive to improve standards and have taken swift action to address the inspector’s findings.
‘We are working closely with Lancashire County Council Monitoring an Intervention Team, who are providing staff with the guidance and training needed.
‘The first phase of a detailed action plan is now beginning to be implemented across the school.
‘A robust audit and review of our SEN provision has been competed, with staff training on interventions planned for the end of this term.
‘The Early Years curriculum has also been reviewed and overhauled, with support from a foundation teacher from an ‘outstanding’ Early Years school.
‘We are also supporting staff who are understandably upset by Ofsted’s findings.
‘Though staff are saddened at the inspector’s overall findings, we were pleased to see that the inspector noted that Pupils rise to leaders’ high expectations for behaviour and conduct.
‘Pupils also show consideration and respect for their classmates, with the inspector stating that pupils’ relationships with staff are equally positive.
‘The inspector noted that leaders deal with instances of bullying effectively and concluded that pupils are safe and happy at the school.
‘Despite the positives, we know we have fallen way below our high standards.
‘Parents have been kept fully informed of the situation and I would like to reassure them that we are committed to doing whatever it takes to turn things around as soon as is physically possible.
‘The school’s governing body are fully behind the leadership team and, following a review of their own governance, look forward to the improvement process.’