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Torquay Westlands head teacher defends term-time trip abroad

By Herald Express  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

By HANNAH FINCH

Dr Colin Kirkman, head at Westlands

Dr Colin Kirkman, head at Westlands

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A TORQUAY headteacher has hit back at criticism after taking a foreign trip during term time.

Dr Colin Kirkman (pictured), headteacher at Westlands School, extended his leave by four days for a trip to South Africa beyond the two-week autumn half-term holiday.

Parents face £50 fines for taking children out of school for more than a week during term time.

But Dr Kirkman has defended his decision which meant that he missed the school's prizegiving ceremony on the last day of school.

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He said he sought permission from the chairman of governors for unpaid leave either side of the fortnight for the trip that was due to personal reasons but which also included a day's break on safari.

A letter from a group calling themselves 'The Westlands Whistleblowers' is among anonymous criticisms about Dr Kirkman's absence.

The 'Whistleblowers' say they are 'seriously disheartened members of school staff'.

They ask: "Is this the correct behaviour for one of the highest-paid head teachers in Torbay who will in turn be handing out penalties to parents who take their children out of school for holidays?"

Dr Kirkman said: "I think it's unfortunate that people are making judgements without understanding the circumstances behind it.

"I do not think that the staff understand the background but that is because I have not shared those personal circumstances with them. The proper permissions were sought and there were very good personal reasons."

He said that the timing was not to take advantage of cheap flights but because of flight availability.

He said that the first part of the holiday was to attend to personal circumstances but he also confirmed he went on safari while in South Africa.

Dr Kirkman has close links with the country. He spent some of his childhood living in Zambia where his father worked. Westlands is also twinned with two schools in Uganda.

He said: "There were personal reasons that required us to fly out to South Africa.

"The only flights we could get were just outside of the half-term break so I phoned the chairman of governors and asked whether he would allow me to go.

"Having listened to the case, he agreed that under the circumstances that he was happy for me to do so. I sought permission and it was unpaid, and despite that, I worked on the unpaid days. The school is in credit in terms of my time."

Mr Kirkman said that in light of the criticism, he would talk to staff to 'help them understand the reasons' for the trip. Chairman of governors Martin Stentiford could not be contacted.

A Torbay Council Spokesman said that attendance officers monitor and it is down to individual head teachers to decide where to issue penalty notices and fines to parents if children miss school.

The spokesman said: "In Torbay, each head teacher has the responsibility to consider the appropriateness of the issuing of a penalty notice in each individual case and they will instruct Torbay Council to issue a penalty notice."

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  • robocop1982  |  November 14 2012, 7:47PM

    IS this this story entirely accurate? YOu know how the media often over hype something

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  • SophieLouLou  |  November 13 2012, 9:27PM

    Looking back over the stories mentioned here, it appears that Julia Rawlinson had held several jobs in a variety of schools and was even employed at a leading exam board. The Head at Westlands was the only one to dig deep enough to bring it to light. I would be pleased he had done his job properly if my kids were at the school. Why didn't the other Headteachers find that out - or the people at the top of the Exam Board she marked for?? I think staff sending letters to a newspaper is not a professional way to make a complaint. Have a problem at work - talk to your boss about it first. That's what the rest of us do! According to the article the Head had permission and it was unpaid. And it was 3 days! People have personal lives - fact! I agree, let's stop the witch hunt

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  • timetogo  |  November 12 2012, 7:35PM

    This news is approximately 12 months out of date. Also - Madmossy, your information is rather out of touch with reality.

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  • millymoo  |  November 12 2012, 7:19PM

    190 days for teachers to be in front of the children is the 38 weeks with which the children are in school for their education and with which the teachers are in school to give said children the education they are paid and contracted to do,not take extra days off for holidays. I am not on a witch hunt I am purely stating facts which quite honestly are outrageous by the head for having the time off and the Govenors for allowing it as stated in previous comments.

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  • nicold  |  November 12 2012, 6:56PM

    "If you have any complaints direct them at the chairman not the teacher." I tried to contact the chairman but he was on holiday! ;)

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  • madmossy  |  November 12 2012, 6:44PM

    I'm not a teacher, on the matter of the "fake" teacher, something clearly wasn't done correctly for that to happen. Sufficient checks were obviously not done, a CRB check would have been carried out but would not disclose if someone was qualified to teach. On the other matter, Teachers are entitled to holiday, it is a job after all, In-fact teachers only have to work 195 days of the year, 190 of which must be in front of pupils. You cannot compare your child's education to the head teacher taking additional time off for personal reasons, which by the way was approved by the chairman of the schools board. If you have any complaints direct them at the chairman not the teacher. So may I suggest putting the pitch forks down and stop with the witch hunt.

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  • millymoo  |  November 12 2012, 5:25PM

    So madmossy you agree with teachers being allowed time off in term time, and then if you take your child out of school you are fined for doing this? Sorry but teachers have enough holidays during the year to take their holidays and if the flight's don't suit then sorry re-arrange the holiday to another time when they are! You are obviously a teacher to defend this action where as I am a parent who certainly doesn't. Then we find out he did the same last year, and he has employed a person who claimed she was a teacher and yet was a complete fake.How was this ever allowed? Aren't checks put in place so this doesn't happen? CRB springs to mind, qualification certificates is another. How were our children safe during this period? Will certainly be watching the news of the outcome of the "Bogus Teacher" case.Would like to see how this one is explained.

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  • madmossy  |  November 12 2012, 11:35AM

    Parents getting fined for their children skipping school is perfectly ok, its a requirement by law, there is no law stating that teachers must be in school during term time, their contracts may have specific requirements but as his leave without pay was approved by the schools governers then I see nothing wrong with it. No doubt he had appointed someone else to take over on a temporary basis.

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  • nicold  |  November 12 2012, 11:19AM

    What people need to understand, is that the personal reasons were so upsetting, he needed to go on a safari to recover! ;)

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  • Hello  |  November 11 2012, 7:50PM

    So Dr. Kirkman employs fake teachers, has time off in term time and we still allow him to be in charge of our children? I think serious questions need to be asked the 1st one being "is this man capable and trustworthy enough to be in charge?" My opinion is no he certainly isn't.

    Rate   7
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