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Head teacher hits back at 'lies' and says she feels like a 'sitting duck'


THE embattled head teacher of two schools whose exam results are under investigation by the Department for Education has said she feels like a "sitting duck".

The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) is assessing discrepancies in a small number of SATs papers taken at Heavers Farm Primary School, in South Norwood.

It has now begun a second investigation after receiving an allegation relating to staff conduct during this summer's exams at Selsdon Primary School.

Susan Papas, the head of both schools, told the Advertiser the allegations are "lies" but she feels unable to fully defend herself or her staff until the investigations are completed.

"I'm caught in this really difficult situation. The bottom line is that whatever the STA is investigating at Heavers Farm is really minor. I expected it to be dealt with by now because it's a really simple thing to resolve," she said.

"Because they are taking such a long time it has given someone the chance to start rumours and those have spread to Selsdon.

"There was nothing going on at Selsdon, absolutely nothing."

Ms Papas has taken legal advice after allegations made by an anonymous parent against staff at Selsdon were printed in another Croydon paper.

Claims about her personal life have been posted online in response to the stories, leading her to think she is the victim of a personal vendetta.

The Advertiser reported last year that Ms Papas had been subjected to anonymous abuse by anonymous parents at Selsdon after banning smoking outside the school gate and allowing a mum to sell cakes once a week in the playground.

"Someone is posing as an anonymous parent," said Ms Papas about the latest incident. "I'm so fed up with it. I don't know which way to turn.

"I've got a pretty good idea who is behind it. It's straightforward payback and it's affecting everyone around me."

Heavers Farm's SATs results are being withheld while the STA completes its investigation. The situation did not affect pupils' secondary school applications.

Last week, two investigators from the council were sent to Selsdon on behalf of the STA to interview every member of staff involved in the exam process. They will now report back to the STA.

Ms Papas said: "It's really distressing. Our staff work so hard. That they had to go through all this is awful.

"They've been so supportive, absolutely amazing.

"There's this feeling that people don't want Selsdon to succeed.

"We've worked really hard this year and its being undermined. It's so unnecessary."

Ms Papas took over as executive head at Selsdon last September and was tasked with raising standards after several years of decline. It posted significantly improved SATs results in August, with 82 per cent of pupils reaching at least a Level 4 in English and maths, an increase of 21 per cent.

Phil Thomas, councillor for the ward, visited Selsdon on Tuesday to speak to Ms Papas.

He said: "I was very impressed with what was going on at the school and with the head. She came across as someone who wanted to change the school for the better.

"I discussed the concerns that have been raised and I'm now waiting for the council to investigate those claims."

To add to the schools' issues, Heavers Farm head of school Andrea Cousins resigned earlier this year and a deputy head is on long-term sick leave.

Ms Papas, who says the exam concerns and the senior management changes are not connected, has vowed to continue her work at both schools.

"I've been told by the local authority that they are behind me and that I shouldn't walk out of the door. There's no way I am going to do that, even if I have felt like it at times," she added.

"I fully expect to be exonerated but until the schools are cleared we have to cope with all the rumours and accusations. That's really hard."

A DfE spokesman said: "We have recently been made aware of allegations of maladministration at Selsdon Primary. We take all allegations very seriously and are currently investigating."

Head teacher hits back at 'lies' and says she feels like a 'sitting duck'

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