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Roke Primary School head teacher steps down to "face a new challenge"


BELEAGUERED Roke Primary has announced its head teacher will not be returning to the school after her period of ill-health.

Although on Tuesday parents initially received a letter saying the head, Caroline Phillips, was "absent due to ill-health and unfortunately, she will not be returning this term", the Advertiser was told the day after that Ms Phillips had decided to "move on".

The letter was written by Christine Barry, who will be taking over as executive head teacher in the interim, supporting the assistant and deputy heads, Katie Turner and Elizabeth Vincent, in running the school.

On Wednesday, the chairman of governors, Malcolm Farquharson, said: "We are entering a new phase in the life of Roke Primary School as we move into the formal stage of the process to become an academy.

"It will be a period of rapid change, and our head teacher, Caroline, has decided that now is the right time for her to move on to face a new challenge."

Ms Phillips, who has worked in Croydon schools for nearly 20 years, joined Roke as deputy head in September 2001 and was appointed head teacher at the beginning of 2009.

During her time at Roke, the school was graded "outstanding" by Ofsted in November 2003 and again in March 2009. This was followed up by a further "outstanding" for IT tuition in October 2010.

However, the Kenley primary is currently in the midst of high-profile controversy over the Government's intention to turn it into an academy under the control of the Harris Federation, with more than 200 parents starting up a "Save Roke" campaign.

The plan was triggered by a damning Ofsted report last summer, although campaigners claim this was purely the fault of senior management and had nothing to do with the standard of teaching.

Despite an expressed wish by the school to have nearby Riddlesdown Collegiate to act as a sponsor, the Government continues to insist on Harris.

Since then, the Save Roke group has sought legal advice, marched on Whitehall with a petition of more than 2,000 signatures opposing the change, and visited the Harris headquarters in Croydon.

Becky Carrier, a leading member of the campaign group, said: "I think her departure will boost the campaign a lot.

"Many parents are relieved she has gone. It was a stumbling block for the campaign as people thought if they went down the Harris route, at least she would not be head. I think it stopped a lot of parents joining.

"I don't know if what we do will make a difference, but there are a lot of us who are really opposed to this idea to turn the school into an academy.

"Even if they don't listen and force the change anyway, we will definitely not go quietly."

The deadline for the public consultation is today (Friday) with a report on the process expected in three weeks.

Roke Primary School head teacher steps down to “face a new challenge”

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