is a person I have never knowingly met. She originates I believe from South Africa, and is of Indian heritage. Until the autumn of last year she had had a successful teaching career, and was the head teacher of Moorlands Primary School in Tilehurst, west Reading. Some parents did not like her style it seems, and soon there was a playground campaign by parents to get her removed. A small but vocal group. Not representative of the parent body. They got up a petition seeking her removal. It does not appear to have contained any specific allegations, merely to have stated that parents were "unhappy" with Ms Singh. This petition was submitted first of all to the Reading Evening Post, and then to the governing body of the school. That body appears to have realised that if there is a petition then there must be an issue (they were right). What should they have done next? In my view they should have contacted the lead signatory of the petition and asked that person, along with anyone else who had signed the petition and wished to attend, to come and make their allegations to the governing body. Then, having heard those allegations in detail (which the petition does not give) they should have asked Ms Singh to appear before them to answer the allegations. They did not do this. Instead they referred the whole matter to Reading Borough Council for an independent inquiry. That inquiry has not yet reported so far as I am aware. But Ms Singh has thereby been denied, so far, the opportunity to put her case. In the meantime she has been sent home on full pay, and thus deprived of her job.
A parent who reportedly played a leading role in the petition, Heidi Craske, was reported as having said that she did not think "that Indian woman" should be "in charge of our children". A person who played a leading role in the petition reportedly called a parent, Kes Williams, who supported Ms Singh, a "Paki-lover". That person, who may or may not have been Heidi Craske,later said that a fake email account had been set up in her name and that she had never said such things. However the report I read indicated that the person, who may or may not have been Ms Craske, made the offending remarks verbally and not by email.
Whatever the truth of the above, and if I am factually incorrect please tell me how and I will publish it, a very serious question arises. Natural justice demands that if allegations are made the person against whom they are made should be heard. Ms Singh has not been so heard. This is presumably why she has brought an employment tribunal case, and she is being represented in this by a member of the Bindmans partnership. That partnership does not mess about. I do not imagine that Ms Singh is of independently wealthy means,though of course I could be wrong about that. If I am not then the action is being brought on a no win no fee basis. Which means Bindmans think they will win.
I have no reason to believe Malcolm Powers, the chair of the governing body of that school,now and at the time the decision was taken to take the unsubstantiated petition seriously and not to hear Ms Singh, was a local authority appointee to the governing body. Although he may have been. He is more likely to have been appointed as a parent governor. However he gained access to that body, he became the chair of it, and as such the person ultimately accountable for its decisions. And the decision for which he is accountable, namely to kick the petition away to an independent inquiry and to deny Ms Singh the opportunity to be heard, may cost Reading Borough Council a deal of money if Ms
Singh wins her tribunal case. In practice local authorities prefer to settle these cases out of court to avoid prohibitive increases in their insurance premiums. Whether Reading Borough Council does this or not remains to be seen.
Malcolm Powers is a former employee of Berkshire County Council, having studied geology at Reading University. He left the County Council to work in the constituency office of Jane Griffiths MP (me) in early 1998, and left that employ, on amicable terms, in late 1999. He then worked for the Labour Party, and currently is its regional director for the south-east region, based in Reading. He was a Labour councillor for Battle ward in Reading for a number of years and most recently was a Labour candidate for Church ward in Reading (not elected). He has Labour credentials going back a number of years and it is unlikely to have escaped the then controlling Labour group on Reading Borough Council, when Malcolm Powers became a member and then the chair of the governing body of Moorlands Primary School, that he was one of their own. Indeed, in 2002 Malcolm Powers was press officer of Reading Labour Party, and thus responsible for its public pronouncements.
What does Reading Labour have to do with this decision, which has ousted a head teacher from her job following an apparently racist campaign by some parents, and which may cost Reading Borough Council a great deal of money, and what are they going to do about playground racism?
I only ask.