Governor ‘told to quit school for joining UKIP’

Eskdale School, and below, headteacher Sue Whelan and bottom, Mike Ward

Eskdale School, and below, headteacher Sue Whelan and bottom, Mike Ward

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An investigation has been launched over claims that a “dedicated” Whitby school governor has been forced to quit - because he joined UKIP.

The eurosceptic party claims borough councillor Mike Ward’s decision to jump ship has made him “person non grata” at Eskdale School, where the former teacher was chairman of governors.

Head teacher Sue Wheelan, and below, Eskdale School

Head teacher Sue Wheelan, and below, Eskdale School

An internal school probe has now been launched over the allegations, which were brought by a member of the public - and have enraged UKIP top brass.

“This is an outrage,” said UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall.

“Mike has been a dedicated governor for years and it is totally unacceptable that membership of UKIP should be considered to be incompatible with being a governor.

“This is discrimination against a conscientious man who has worked tirelessly for the school - he purely has the interests of the school and local youngsters at heart.

It’s alleged that Cllr Ward, who taught for ten years and worked at Oxford University, was told that the right wing party’s immigration policy didn’t fit with the school’s views by headteacher Sue Whelan.

He was allegedly told this two days after switching sides at Scarborough Town Hall, where he’d previously sat as an Independent.

Cllr Ward has told the Gazette that he doesn’t “want to make any political gains” from the claims, but in a lengthy statement, he said he was “astonished” to be told to step down.

“Politics had never played a part in my time as a governor but after some soul searching over the weekend and not wishing to cause the school any further issues I tendered my resignation which she accepted.”

He added that the “pupils must come first” at the school, which Ofsted inspectors ruled earlier this year requires improvement, having previously branded it “outstanding”.

But UKIP has now called for a full independent inquiry - and for Cllr Ward to be reinstated, despite his resignation.

Despite initially vowing to carry out a full investigation, North Yorkshire County Council has now distanced itself from any inquiry.

A council spokesperson said: “North Yorkshire County Council has received a complaint from a member of the public about the resignation of the chair of governors at Eskdale School in Whitby.

“This is a matter for consideration not by the County Council but by the school’s governing body.

“We understand that the governing body is taking this complaint seriously and will respond to the complainant.”

Cllr Ward has been a school governor at Eskdale for eight years and chairman for the last five. His teaching career included a two year stint in Filey.

Headteacher Sue Whelan has declined to comment.

But Mr Nuttall added: “Everyone is entitled to their own political views and I’m sure the other governors have theirs and possibly even belong to a political party but like Mike just concentrate on seeking the best for Eskdale School.”

See the Gazette on Friday for coverage.