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Retiring Norfolk headteacher speaks out over education issues

PUBLISHED: 10:20 05 December 2012

Victoria Musgrave

Victoria Musgrave

Archant © 2009

“Super heads” who claim to come into a school and suddenly transform it “do not exist”, according to a retiring Norfolk principal.

But Victoria Musgrave, who will leave Wymondham High Academy at the end of this term, said she believed the teaching profession as a whole deserved more credit for the work it was doing to support students.

The principal moved back to Norfolk five years ago charged with improving the coasting secondary school, where results had plateaued.

Having previously been seconded to the struggling Rosemary Musker High School in Thetford while principal at Wymondham College, she was described as a “super head” – a title she rejected.

“There is no such thing as a ‘super head’,” she said. “I think they are a fiction. They come in and create a situation that is unsustainable. Then they disappear into the ether.

“The best heads are the heads that put in place the best structures – safe, calm, positive environs.

“I know that when I go, the results here will continue to go up.”

During her five years at Wymondham High, Mrs Musgrave has achieved her goal, taking the academy’s results from 60pc of students achieving five A* to C GCSE grades, including English and maths, when she arrived to 71pc last year.

The principal, who will turn 60 in January, admits her approach has not been popular with everyone and some parents have accused her of being too strict.

“For the most part, the parents have been enormously supportive. I have had lots of nice letters from parents,” she said. “But there have been accusations that I’m too strict on dress and behaviour. I don’t apologise for that. I think it’s important you are in an environment where you know where the boundaries are. We’re preparing these young people for the world of work.”

But there is one approach that she has been keen to avoid – something she fears other schools have fallen into the trap of doing.

“Some of the messages that come from on high are ‘actually, it’s the results that matter more than the children’. I think that’s a tragedy. Yes, we have to get them the results, but not at the expense of losing them as individuals.

“There are schools that are outstanding, but their students are treated like robots. They are exam sausage-making factories.”

And that is not the only message coming from “on high” that concerns her.

Mrs Musgrave said there was a morale issue at schools like Wymondham High – rated satisfactory after its last Ofsted inspection and due another visit any day – which felt “like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over them”.

“There have been a huge number of changes from the government and many of the messages from government are very critical about schools,” the principal said. “I find that very distasteful.

“I have 105 teachers here. They all come into the profession for the right reasons. Rather than being criticised, they ought to be praised for what they are doing.

“It’s a tough job. Instead of negativity, there should be more support.”

Mrs Musgrave said that did not mean she was against accountability. She said it was right that schools should be challenged and set targets, but she said the government had got the focus wrong.

“It’s all results driven,” she said. “Very little credibility is given to the other things schools do. They are often making up for what’s missing at home. Schools aren’t given nearly enough credit.”


  • What a deplorable and sickening view-that schools are there to prepare children for the world of work . And there was me thinking they were there to give all children a good education . If all schools are there for is preparing for work then kids might as well be in factories from when they are twelve.. Discipline is possible without the window dressing of uniform and window dressing is what we see from many of the new academies. I agree that super heads are a nonsense-super shuttlers of problem kids and pickers and choosers of exam courses is more like it. Thetford has been a problem since the overspill was moved in-the money and effort Norfolk has thrown at schools in the town with a succession of new theories and ways of teaching-maybe the kids who are from overspill families from London are sow's ears. And maybe too many of our schools are staffed by non Norfolk teachers who think Norfolk children are all going to be easy to teach and will go and drive tractors or work in Primark and as teachers have low aspirations for the success of their pupils. I recall a well known headmistress of a Norfolk grammar school thinking pretty much along those lines years ago.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

  • She was always nu labour and moved in the chosen circles of the dinner parties

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    No to tory boy

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

  • Victoria Musgrave....wasn't she the Headteacher at Crompton House School in 2006 who called in the police and the bomb squad when a boy brought into school a inactive WW1 grenade. His Grandfather had purchased it as a souvenir when visiting the Somme battlefields in northern France, and the boy had thought it would add interest to their history lesson. She accepted that his actions were foolhardy rather than malicious, but that didn't stop her from excluding him. I wonder if Wymondham High Academy has a policy on inactive souvenir WW1 grenades?

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    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

  • “NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”

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    Sunday, December 9, 2012

  • Some people need to practice what they preach. Money was thrown at Thetford purely for cosmetic effect. The school was left in a sad way. We need proactive heads not ones who sit typing policy all day, churning out reams of memos and not actually speaking to anyone

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    Jacob Burns

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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