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A riposte to the Gibbens report from the staff point of view
APPROVED SCHOOLS GAZETTE, November 1967
Speech made by Frank Ebert, Hon. Secretary, South
East Branch, The Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and
Matrons of Approved Schools, at Special General Meeting held at
Hamilton House, London, on 17th October 1967.
I SPEAK as the colleague nominated by Mr Haydon to act as his "friend", a nomination approved by your Executive. If, therefore, my remarks deal almost exclusively with Mr Haydon's position it is not because I am unmindful of the wider issues or unsympathetic towards the boys, staff and managers of Court Lees all, unfairly and unnecessarily, adversely affected by the injustice of the Home Secretary's hasty action. My concern is that, unless we take strong measures to prevent it, the man, and in my view the only man, who on 6th February will be without job, home and money is Mr Haydon.
Why is he in this position? Why is the Home Secretary at present adamant Mr Haydon must lose his job? Why has he gone further and intimated he could not support his retention within the residential child care service? Let us examine the facts.
Mr Haydon is a man whose character, ability and experience led to him becoming, with active Home Office support, the headmaster of the largest approved school in this country -- and that as recently as 1st January this year. He brought new drive and zest to the school. Managers and Home Office were well satisfied with their choice. The staff, minus only Mr Cook, stated in a Press Release on 1st September: "We enjoy working with Mr Haydon, who has earned, receives and appreciates our loyalty. Under his inspiring leadership the school was becoming increasingly stimulating and successful, a fact realised and appreciated by the boys and their parents, many of whom were very distressed at the closure."
Compare the record of Mr Haydon with that of Mr Cook, a man the Home Secretary, for motives not easily understandable by me, insisted should be retained. Accept Mr Gibbens' assessment of character and ask on those grounds who should go?
Mr Gibbens "found Mr Cook a complex character: obviously very emotional and intense, apt to exaggerate greatly, sometimes irresponsible in his behaviour, and possessed by a burning conviction that he is the only person who understands the boys with compassion and who is devoted to their interests. I believe that (perhaps to some extent unintentionally) he has set himself up as the boys' champion against the senior staff. He was clearly at odds with most of the staff, particularly with Mr Fidoe, Mr Garlick, Mr Draycon and Mr Haydon, who regarded him as emotionally unstable. There is ample reason for thinking that Mr Cook's belief that he could not get on with Mr Haydon springs from jealousy due to the failure of his application for the post of headmaster on the retirement of Mr Fidoe. I think that Mr Cook's evidence is chiefly suspect on the grounds of exaggeration and that it is seasoned with a certain amount of malice to those men who are, or who have been, his superior."
Of Mr Haydon, Mr Gibbens says: "As a witness he appeared honest and candid, making no attempt to avoid difficult matters which he was required to explain." .. . "in the second published letter Mr Cook asserted that Mr Haydon "is basically a kindly man" and, despite the conclusions stated below, I believe that to be true, both of him and of Mr Fidoe."
Mr Cook's letters to the Guardian, full of exaggerations and inaccuracies, did tremendous harm to the image of our service. How shocked was he by the alleged brutal beatings? Certainly not shocked enough to use the many avenues by which he could have made a legitimate complaint. He knew the Home Office would "dearly love to know the name of my school". "They shall not have it", he wrote. . . "my name and address are not for publication. My fears over the loss of my house if I were identified ... are very real ones." All the terrible things of which Mr Cook complained could presumably continue, so far as he was concerned, until the day he retired, so long as he kept his house.
Mr Cook fought to the last to maintain his anonymity. The Report makes it clear that only after the school had been identified and inspectors had discovered it was Mr Cook who took the photographs, did he go to the Home Office. He was forced, I submit, into a position where he had no option but to attempt to justify his allegations. Was ever an Enquiry set up on such unsatisfactory foundations?
Professional people will readily understand the insistence of the Managers that they could not retain Mr Cook. How can the Home Secretary justify his retention? What future does the Home Secretary himself see for Mr Cook? What staff will work with him? Be that as it may, Mr Jenkins says Cook must stay; Haydon must go. Why?
Mr Jenkins says that Mr Haydon has been found guilty of five breaches of the approved school rules. They are:
I have tried to give an honest assessment of the findings against Mr Haydon. If guilty at all how guilty is he? I submit that if he was guilty on all five counts his dismissal would still be unjustifiable. But he is not so guilty.
Others will have stated the unsatisfactory nature of the Inquiry. I would only remind you that the Treasury Solicitor stated categorically "no one is in the dock at this enquiry". He told Mr Gibbens "no disciplinary consequence would follow or could properly follow automatically upon your report ... the matter would have to be investigated subsequently . . . and gone into and there would be the opportunity of defence and so forth given". The Home Secretary has completely disregarded this submission of the Treasury Solicitor. Sentence was passed with the publication of the Report. Justice was neither done nor seen to be done.
May I, Mr President, add a few concluding remarks.
The support afforded Mr Haydon by his Managers and Staff has been altogether admirable. They know his worth. Their loyalty is a tribute to him and themselves.
Let us as an Association once more pay tribute to the tremendous assistance already given by the N.U.T. who, with the N.A.S. are united in opposition to the Home Secretary's actions. Indeed the unanimous view of all who have studied this case is that a great injustice is being done.
Let us pay tribute to Mr Haydon himself. Throughout he has played the man. He held control firmly before and during the enquiry and even when seeing his boys so hastily despatched elsewhere. Surely he could have been spared the extra difficulty of keeping his school going with Mr Cook still present. Why were the Managers not permitted to suspend Cook? Throughout the inquiry Mr Haydon acted calmly, professionally and honourably, concerned more with his boys and staff than with his own difficulties. Indeed he has acted as only a man with a clear conscience could.
Mr Jeremy Thorpe said recently: "The way in which evil will prosper is for good men to do nothing". We have plenty we must do. That is why we are here. First I suggest we must say to Mr Haydon -- and mean it: "We, your colleagues support you and will not let you down". Then I favour one more immediate direct approach to the Home Secretary seeking, if need be demanding, a last opportunity to negotiate. And before this meeting ends we should have plans made for such militant action as may become necessary.
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