Primary school's teachers quit en masse over 'impossibly high workload'

David Harding
Some of the teachers had more than 20 years’ experience (SWNS)

A Bristol primary school has been left in chaos after all 16 teachers quit.

The 16 – including two heads and a number of staff with more than 20 years’ service – have all left since the start of the year, with the final seven leaving today with the end of the summer term.

Teachers say they had to leave because it was “impossible” to work with the high workloads.

Union reps and insiders are blaming the leadership at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School for the extraordinary walkout.

Many teachers have previously been signed off for stress.

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Parents have been told by governors at the school in the area of Kingswood that an entirely new teaching staff would be in place from September.

The school was rated “good” by Ofsted in November 2013, but SATs results at the end of 2016 were below the floor standard set by the Department for Education.

Less than one quarter of pupils achieved the required standard for reading, writing and maths.

South Gloucestershire Council, which runs the school, told its leaders it needed to improve.

The Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Bristol (SWNS)

The then headteacher, Clare Murray, left the school shortly after the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Executive headteacher Louisa Wilson, who is also head at nearby St Stephen’s CofE Junior School – where Maths SATs results were recently annulled – took over at the end of October 2016.

Over November last year, several teachers were signed off with stress, with many saying they could not work with the new executive head.

It led to several complaints from parents worried for their children.

One teacher, who did not want to be named, said: “All of the teachers are leaving. We’ve had enough.

“Many of them were signed off with stress, and the pressure was unreasonable.

“We were told if we did not follow the head’s methods, we would not be welcome at the school.”

Another member of staff, who asked not to be named, added: “It’s so important for the school to have the same teachers – that continuity is what children need.”

Karla Wheeler, divisional secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in South Gloucestershire, said she had been working with the school since November but to no avail.

Ms Wheeler said: “We were forced to intervene. Five of our members were off with stress, and they said it was down to the new executive headteacher.

“It’s an impossible situation. Headteachers have a duty of care to their staff. We did a work survey, and it came back really negative.

“We’re worried for the children.”

In May government figures revealed that the rate of secondary teachers leaving the profession increased from 6.6 per cent in 2011 to 8.7 per cent in 2015 – with burnout regarded as a major factor.

39,000 working age teachers left state schools in 2015, up from 27,900 in 2011.

However, according to analysis by FullFact, the number of primary school teachers is actually going up – but that is mainly down to the fact the number of primary school pupils is also increasing.

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “Our Lady of Lourdes has experienced a lot of change over the past year, but we are pleased that thanks to a lot of hard work, the school and its pupils are in a strong position for the future.”