'This isn't going to suit everybody': Head of Northampton school hits back at strict culture claims

The head teacher of Wootton Park School in Northampton says not everyone will like its style of leadership.
The head teacher of Wootton Park School in Northampton says not everyone will like its style of leadership.

The head teacher of Northampton’s newest free school says its culture of aspiration will not be to everyone’s liking after claims of a strict on-site regime

Wootton Park School opened in a state-of-the art modular building in 2016, next to the Northamptonshire Police headquarters.

While its cohort of pupils will not move into a £20 million new building until September, 2019, the free school saw more than 600 pupils apply for the 120 places currently available.

But recent responses to the school’s Ofsted Parent View panel has shown the school’s style of leadership has divided opinion.

When asked whether their child was happy at school, 15 per cent ticked the strongly disagree option” - though the majority, 75 per cent, said that they “strongly agree”.

Head teacher Dan Rosser said he was aware of a number of parents who had commented on the way the school was being run on social media.

School governors also heard a recent complaint regarding a parent who argued their child was not allowed to go to the toilet, which the school strongly denies. Several parents of other children told the Chron they felt some rules were too harsh.

Commenting on the Ofsted survey, Mr Rosser, said: “What we found was the people who clearly had an issue with the school, front-loaded it with comments.

“Some of the parents were registering that didn’t even have children at the school.

“It was open to some manipulation.

“As of today 98 people have done the consultation, the vast majority of which agree, or strongly agree with the direction of the school.

“As a free school we have a unique opportunity to create something new and different.

"And, importantly, something that’s right for our children.

“We are able to be a lot more personal around our planning.

“We want to develop a culture of aspiration - we want it to be cool to put your hand up. Some you can get a ribbing for putting your hand up, but here it is the norm.

“There are a few parents that haven’t agreed with that and they have chosen to take their children elsewhere.”

But Mr Rosser said children at the school have been making “exceptional progress” over the past two years, though he makes no bones about the fact the school promotes traditional values - such as holding doors open for one another - and a competitive spirit.

The school runs a house system, where good work and attainment is rewarded by points, which can then be cashed in for reward items such as a football or sweets.

With its proximity to the police and fire service headquarters, it also specialises in teaching crime sciences.

Children, he added, are allowed to go to the toilet when they please providing the put their hand up.

Mr Rosser does not deny there have been disagreements over the direction of Wootton Park School, but he said this was a natural consequence of a facility aiming to be the highest achieving in the county.

Last week for instance, the chair of the trustees Diane White, charged with setting the strategic direction of the school, stepped down.

Chairman of the board of governors, Andre Gonzalez De Savage said this was because of a disagreement over the role of the trustees, who he said wanted to take more responsibility for the day-to-day running of the school.

Mr Rosser said: “The nature of education is all about parental choice.

“Parents can now choose what school their child goes to. We know this isn’t going to suit everybody."

Within the next four to five years Wootton Park School, which is currently so oversubscribed it has had to reduce its catchment area to within a mile, will have an intake of 1,260 pupils and cater for children from reception through to the sixth form.