Manor Field head quits - says Government is ‘factory farming’ children

Kit Messenger
Kit Messenger
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A popular headteacher has resigned, citing the narrow curriculum and the Government’s ‘factory farming’ approach to education as her reasons.

Kit Messenger, head of Manor Field Primary School in Burgess Hill for four years, said increasing pressure to turn schools into academies and to focus on core subjects leaves children poorly prepared for the future.

In her resignation letter, Ms Messenger said: “I have been passionate about my career for more than twenty years, putting it ahead of everything else in my life.

“My love for teaching and school improvement has run like blood through my veins and I have constantly sacrificed friendships and family life in order to secure better provision for children.

“I now find that much of my work is spent completing bureaucratic tasks which have no or little positive impact on our pupils and this has left me feeling increasingly frustrated and unhappy; it has now begun to have a detrimental impact on my physical and emotional health.

“I have also found it progressively difficult to protect staff from workloads that leave little time for their own families, feeling that the only way to secure good outcomes at inspection is to push them further than I believe is reasonable.”

A statement from the school’s governors said they supported her decision:

“The Manor Field Governing body has discussed Ms. Messenger’s resignation with her in detail and although hugely saddened by her announced departure, do fully understand and support her reasons for doing so,” it said.

“Ms. Messenger clearly explained that recent plans by the government for education are contrary to her own beliefs that all children should have access to a wholly rounded education.

“Ms. Messenger has spent the last sixteen years of her teaching career at Manor Field School and has worked tirelessly to create a caring and effective learning environment.

The resignation takes effect from August 31 this year. Mrs Lawson will take over as Acting Head Teacher while the governors will appoint a successor to take over from January next year.

The statement concludes: “Because of the strong structures in leadership within all areas of the school management, the Governing body are confident the school will continue to run efficiently and effectively and always to the good of the children in the school’s care.”

The resignation letter, included here in full, was sent to parents yesterday:

“It is with huge sadness, and after a great deal of soul-searching, that I have decided to offer my resignation from the post of headteacher at Manor Field Primary School, with effect from 31st August 2016.

“I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had such an incredibly supportive and hard working governing body, and in particular, a Chair and Vice Chair who have not only given me the freedom to follow my vision for the school but also immense emotional support. I will always be grateful for the backing you have given me and your solid and practical approach to school improvement.

“Unfortunately, despite all of your support, in the current educational climate I no longer feel it will be possible to achieve my vision for children at Manor Field School. The narrowing of the curriculum, to the detriment of all other subject areas, has increased significantly over the past two years: judgements made of schools are now so restricted to a small set of measures that the pressure to focus only on reading, writing and mathematics has become untenable and I have increasingly felt that we are ‘factory farming’ our children and failing to prepare them adequately for a successful future in this changing world.

“The recent announcement that all schools should become academies has further strengthened my belief that now is the time to leave a career that has been central to my life for twenty three years. I strongly believe in a state system in which all children have access to a good, rounded education and where staff are treated with respect and enjoy fair working conditions; I do not believe this will be possible under our progressively fragmented educational system.

“I have been passionate about my career for more than twenty years, putting it ahead of everything else in my life. My love for teaching and school improvement has run like blood through my veins and I have constantly sacrificed friendships and family life in order to secure better provision for children. I now find that much of my work is spent completing bureaucratic tasks which have no or little positive impact on our pupils and this has left me feeling increasingly frustrated and unhappy; it has now begun to have a detrimental impact on my physical and emotional health. I have also found it progressively difficult to protect staff from workloads that leave little time for their own families, feeling that the only way to secure good outcomes at inspection is to push them further than I believe is reasonable.

“The decision to resign from the post of Headteacher and bring to an end a career that I have loved so very deeply has been incredibly difficult: it is no exaggeration to say it has been heartbreaking. However, I do know it is the right decision.

“Having spent the past sixteen years at Manor Field School, I know I will grieve for the school community that I have so enjoyed being a part of. I will miss working with our fantastic group of staff and my days will be much emptier without the 530 pupils who bring much happiness to my life.

“I will of course continue to work tirelessly over this coming term and do everything needed to secure a smooth transition for my successor.”

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