TO MANY Gable Hall observers the relationship between the headteacher Dr Sophina Asong and staff, parents, governors and students has never been a totally harmonious one.
Then again, following John King MBE has never been an easy act to follow. And it cannot have been easy when it was believed that you were not Mr King’s number one choice to succeed him.
Since becoming headteacher in 2011, there have been a number of stories that seem to have set Dr Asong on a collision course with parents.
The most high profile one was the case of two students suspended after a charity headshave.
But since the good doctor’s appointment in 2011 there seems to have been an atmosphere of discontent from teachers who have departed, teachers who remain as well as parents and pupils.
Now parents can be a fickle lot and Corringham parents can be a really really fickle lot and a lot of issues in Corringham do tend to end up surrounded by rancour and bitterness (see Corringham market for instance) but that does not make them wrong.
And Dr Asong is not in a popularity contest.
The bottom line is that Gable Hall is still the number one choice for parents in the east of the borough. 241 put the school down as the first choice compared to 223 who chose St Cleres and a woeful and worrying 52 who chose Hassenbrook.
Their GCSE results have improved year on year. In 2011, they gained 5 A* to C including English and Maths. In 2012, that increased to 70% and in 2013 that result went up even further to 73%.
Imagine if that was the England football team? Ticket sales are going through the roof, they are winning every match and yet people are not happy with the manager’s approach?
The latest issue surrounds a plan by the school to change its pupils’ lunchtimes.
Gable Hall School is proposing lunch breaks are split in two. Seems a minor thing and yet 450 have signed a online petition and there is a furious debate on social media sites (yep that one).
Yes, the comments on the petition are somewhat emotional but as one parent told us: “These are the day to day issues that concern young children. They don’t care about statistics and entry rolls. They just want to sit next to their friends”
But having spoken to parent, teachers and governors, there is a definite sense that this is much much more to do than just a re-organisation of a lunch rota and more to do with a fundamental schism between Dr Asong and everyone else.
The whole case may be symptomatic of modern education where a head teacher is elevated to the role of a chief executive officer, running a quasi-private company and exercising authority in a dogmatic and dictatorial way.
But maybe this is just a go ahead and assertive teacher whose “omlette-crack eggs” approach will improve results, facilities and life chances for the Corringham community.
The parents will get an opportunity to have their say on Tuesday June 24th at 5pm. It does clash with an England game but it looks like that is not so important anymore!
But as they say in football circles, you can have all the plans you like but when you lose the dressing room….
YT did invite Dr Asong to comment on her stewardship but we had not received a reply at the time of publication.