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'Culture of fear' at Orkney school

STAFF at a leading island ­secondary school have written to their local authority employers complaining about "outrageous bullying behaviour" they claim to have seen in their workplace.

A letter written by Stromness Academy staff, citing concerns about the atmosphere in the school and the way both pupils and staff are treated, has been sent to the chief executive of Orkney Islands Council.

According to the local Orcadian newspaper, which has been passed a copy of the letter, it has been signed by 40 of the school's 63 staff members. It is understood not all staff were asked to sign the letter, with the school's senior management team and those on temporary contracts excluded.

The Orcadian online reported that it had received a leaked copy of the letter.

In it, the signatories claim they had "reluctantly come to the decision that action is required" against a "situation we have been labouring under for the past few years, as we go about our everyday business in the school".

Claiming an "atmosphere of fear and oppression", the letter alleges staff have been denied "dignity at work" and that their opinions and suggestions are being ignored.

The letter also cites concerns about the allegedly aggressive way pupils are spoken to for "minor offences, if indeed they can be termed as offences at all".

It concludes: "Nothing short of a thorough and robust investigation into the specific situation at Stromness Academy will satisfy us", adding that they "trust that some form of action will be taken without further undue delay."

A statement to the newspaper, released by the local authority on Monday afternoon, simply read: "Orkney Islands Council does not comment on internal staffing matters."

The Herald attempted to contact Hilda Learmonth, headteacher at Stromness Academy, but she was unavailable.

The school's website states: "We all co-operate to create a supportive learning environment to enable all learners to achieve their best through a wide range of opportunities.

"We strive to help everyone, pupils and staff, through mutual respect and positive relationships to participate in a healthy, active community in which everyone is valued."

Stromness academy takes in pupils from five primary schools - Dounby, Evie, Firth, Stenness and Stromness - with some pupils from Orphir, Rousay and other areas also attending. Over the past two years, pupils from North Walls Junior High School, on the island of Hoy, have also been enrolled in the school.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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