A FORMER headteacher has spoken of his concerns that a previously ‘good’ school has been placed in special measures.

Robin Campbell, who was head of Pleckgate High School, Blackburn, for nine years, said he was surprised at the number of staff departures since he retired 18 months ago.

His comments came as a petition was launched online calling for an investigation into the leadership of current head Cherry Ridgway.

The school was rated inadequate after an inspection in December, with inspectors pointing out ‘a culture of mistrust’ between governors, teachers and Ms Ridgway.

Ms Ridgway said she acknowledged the school had some difficulties but hit out at ‘inflammatory’ statements made on the online petition.

The petition was also criticised by a teachers’ union, who said the issue should not become a ‘trial by social media’.

Launched by Sue Brown of Hoghton, and addressed to MP Jack Straw, it states: “Morale at the school is now so low we fear for the welfare and health of the staff, children and parents feel powerless to stop this as loyal, supportive governors have also been disbanded.

“This has got to stop.”

Mr Straw said: “I am not in a position to launch any kind of investigation but I will be looking into this matter.”

Mr Campbell, who supports an investigation at the school, said: “As the former head of what was a good school I am very saddened to see its decline over the past 18 months.

“To have moved into special measures in such a short time is very disappointing and I was surprised at the number of staff who have departed.

“These were good staff in the majority, all of whom had the interests of Pleckgate at heart.

“The three previous Ofsteds were good or good with outstanding features and something has gone wrong somewhere.

“I am sure parents will be equally as concerned.”

Signatories of the petition included a former deputy headteacher and other members of staff, past and present, as well as pupils.

One said the council had ‘failed the school by not carrying out an impartial investigation’ while another that she was ‘sad at the demise of what used to be one of the best schools in the borough’.

Ms Ridgway said: “I am very disappointed by some of the inflammatory and untrue statements that have been made about this school and me personally online.

“However, I acknowledge the very real concerns some people have about this school in light of the Ofsted judgement and I want to address these.

“When I joined the school as headteacher in 2012, Ofsted had already highlighted concerns about teaching and I had to make changes that were necessary and in the best interests of pupils, but some people inevitably found these changes difficult.

“These changes have already started to pay dividends, with improved attendance, strong achievement in maths and improving attainment in science all highlighted in the recent Ofsted inspection, but of course there is still a long way to go and we have a robust plan to place to continue our journey of improvement.

Coun Dave Harling, Blackburn with Darwen Council executive member for schools, said: “We are aware of the online petition and debate around issues at Pleckgate High School.

“This does nothing to help education or the welfare of pupils and is highly damaging.”

Blackburn NUT rep Simon Jones said the petition was not the way for people to make their feelings known.