Primary headteacher resigns, saying government is forcing schools to ‘factory farm’ children

Sussex head is second to resign over government policy in just a few days

A primary school headteacher has resigned over the government’s education policies after 23 years in education, becoming the second to quit in the space of a few days.

Kit Messenger, head of Manor Field Primary School in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, wrote in her resignation letter that schools were being forced into “factory farming” children and were failing to prepare them properly for the future.

Her move comes just days after another headteacher, Jeremy Gargan, of Aycliffe Village Primary in County Durham, wrote to parents to say that he was leaving the post because the government’s policies were putting “undue pressure” on pupils and teachers. The letter went viral online.

In her resignation letter, Ms Messenger criticised a “progressively fragmented educational system”. She condemned moves to narrow the curriculum, which she said had led to schools being judged on only reading, writing and mathematics.

‘Heartbreaking decision’

Ms Messenger, 45, said the government’s push for all schools to become academies reinforced her decision to quit 530-pupil Manor Field – a move she described as “heartbreaking”.

She also admitted finding it difficult to protect her staff from heavy workloads that left them little time for their families.

And, in a brutally honest assessment of the education system, she said the toll of completing “bureaucratic tasks” had affected her own physical and emotional health.

Her announcement came as education secretary Nicky Morgan today attempted to reassure schools over her academisation plans. In a speech in London, she said academies would not be forced to join chains and could continue to work with local authorities.

Ms Messenger wrote in her resignation letter: “Judgments 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 23 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.”

The school’s board of governors said they “fully understand and support” her reasons for stepping down. She will leave in August.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is disappointing to hear of any headteacher choosing to leave the profession. Our reforms are raising standards and thanks to the hard work of teachers there are a record number of children in good or outstanding schools – 1.4 million more since 2010.

“We know mastering the basics of literacy and numeracy at primary school has a huge impact on how well children do at GCSE, which is why we are determined to raise standards. We have updated the key stage 2 tests to reflect our new, more rigorous curriculum which will help every child fulfil their potential regardless of their circumstances. Tests help teachers identify and provide the support pupils need as well as giving parents a picture of how their child is doing.”

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