Headmistress was "difficult to speak to" - claim
A CAMPAIGN to oust an Indian headmistress from a primary school began because she was "dictatorial and unapproachable" and had nothing to with racism, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.
Moorlands Primary School headteacher Sudhana Singh claims she was forced out of her job by a "playground mafia" and is suing the governors and Reading Borough Council for race discrimination, bullying and harassment.
But yesterday Akua Reindorf, for the council, told the Reading tribunal the problems began because teachers could not approach Mrs Singh, who would just roll her eyes when they raised concerns.
She said: "They could not go to Mrs Singh because she kept herself holed up in her office with a piece of paper covering the window on the door.
"The reason that staff found it difficult to speak to Mrs Singh was because she did not allow them to speak to her without an appointment. She was dictatorial."
Mrs Singh took over the school in Tilehurst's Church End Lane in September 2009 and, giving evidence yesterday, Key Stage One team leader Wendy Witkowska, said she immediately faced a "cliquey atmosphere" among other teachers.
She said staff would stand around whispering and complaining about Mrs Singh, and the cultural trips and initiatives she introduced to the curriculum, which included an International Week, a healthy eating regime and a focus on rights and diversity.
Mrs Witkowska added: "They would stand in huddles and grumble about not agreeing with Mrs Singh. Parents and teachers weren't happy with the changes she was trying to bring in. They were up in arms.
"I came back in January after being poorly and everything seemed to have a problem to do with it. I can't explain it."
Ms Reindorf suggested to her: "Parents felt that Mrs Singh was unapproachable, much like what many of the staff felt.
"They were upset with the changes in the school. That's what it was all about, nothing to do with race." Mrs Witkowska replied: "I couldn't comment on that."
The tribunal continues.