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Unhappy birthday as Sark head is sacked

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SARK SCHOOL head teacher Christopher Sanderson was sacked yesterday ' his birthday.

SARK SCHOOL head teacher Christopher Sanderson was sacked yesterday ' his birthday. Supporters said they were disgusted at the way the Education Committee had concluded the seemingly-unsubstantiated investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct.

Committee head Deputy Peter Cole refused to speak to the Guernsey Press until parents had been informed. But Gareth Newbury, the regional officer of the National Association of Head Teachers, confirmed that Mr Sanderson had been sacked.

'We are absolutely appalled by how insensitive they have been into what from the outset has always come across as a witch hunt,' said Evelyn Nightingale, whose granddaughter attends the school.

'It makes me want to leave Sark after living here for 25 years.

'The only thing the children will take away from this term is that bullying and intimidation are acceptable.'

Mr Sanderson had been suspended since May pending investigations into inappropriate conduct.

The former Education Committee, which had been responsible for the new school since it opened in September, was dissolved by a vote of no confidence in late May after an inquiry cleared him.

The replacement committee, headed by Deputy Cole, a retired lecturer, re-suspended Mr Sanderson within 24 hours of forming.

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His wife, Hillary, Year 1 teacher and acting head in his absence, was stood down and dismissed.

Rebecca Spence, a 38-year-old mother-of-four, said: 'There are so many of us that are angry. The way they have been treated has been cruel, immoral and presumably illegal ' who will foot the bill when the island is sued for this?'

She and Mrs Nightingale joined a crowd of well-wishers with supportive banners who sang happy birthday to Mr Sanderson when he arrived at the Committee Rooms at 12.30pm.

'Mr Sanderson smiled at us when he went in and we expected him to be in there for at least an hour.

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'When he came out 10 minutes later, he said nothing and we immediately put two and two together,' said Mrs Nightingale.

Last month, Mr Sanderson attended his first meeting with Education under Mr Newbury's representation.

'He left that two-hour meeting very positive and optimistic that a satisfactory conclusion would be reached, so we can't understand how things could possibly have changed in the last two weeks,' said Mrs Nightingale.

'It adds strength to the suggestion that Education had their minds made up from the start that they wanted him out.'

Mrs Spence added: 'We believe it has been a carefully-orchestrated campaign against the Sandersons. Education justified all this by saying they had no confidence in him, but I can say outright that there are a lot of people with no confidence in them.'

Mr Nightingale said the committee members tried to leave unnoticed, but because there was only one door to the room, Mr Cole had to face the crowd.

'All he said was that the matter was confidential, which has been his same story all along.'

She said she was getting very worried about how the school's uncertain future was affecting the children.

'The pupils' behaviour has really deteriorated because although the staff are trying to keep the matter from them, they can sense something is wrong.'

Mrs Spence said she was having to look at alternative options for educating her children.

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