Exclusive: Former head’s behaviour and leadership under scrutiny after complaints

A principal who headed a school that lost more than 55 teachers in four years is under investigation by the Teachers Council.

Judd McLauchlan oversaw the high teacher turnover at Manurewa's Rowandale School, before taking the helm at Hamilton's Berkley Normal Middle School after term 1 this year.

He resigned from his new position in August, with the board of trustees saying the move was for personal reasons.

However, several people involved with the school have told the Herald that Mr McLauchlan's departure came after staff raised concerns about his behaviour.

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One member of the school community said numerous concerns were expressed by teachers to Education Review Office (ERO) staff during a scheduled review.

"I know staff would rather live under a bridge than have kept working there [under Mr McLauchlan]," the person, who asked not to be named, said.

ERO periodically reviews every state and state-integrated school and publishes reports on how well each is doing in terms of the learning environment, achievement and leadership.

The latest report on Berkley published last month praised the school while describing some background to Mr McLauchlan's departure.

"During this ERO review, information was provided to the review team by a number of staff who expressed serious concerns relating to the principal's leadership and behaviour," the report stated.

"They considered that these concerns affected the wellbeing of a significant number of staff. These concerns were brought to the attention of the board and addressed."

An ERO spokeswoman said it took any complaints seriously and discussed significant issues with the school during the review.

"ERO was made aware of concerns about the principal. As a personnel issue, it was up to the board of trustees to address the concerns. ERO was very satisfied with the way the board managed the concerns."

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Berkley chairwoman Tracey Gunn refused to comment yesterday. Mr McLauchlan could not be reached for comment.

A Teachers Council spokesman said Mr McLauchlan's practising certificate had expired. "The Complaints Assessment Committee is currently investigating Mr McLauchlan ... any application to renew his practising certificate will not be considered until the CAC's investigation and outcome is complete."

The spokesman said he was unable to say what caused the investigation.

On Saturday the Weekend Herald reported on Mr McLauchlan's time at Rowandale.

The then-22 classroom school had 58 teachers leave between 2010 and the end of last year, according to analysis of school documents and interviews with former staff.

Changes started soon after Mr McLauchlan took over towards the end of 2009. A newspaper report in February 2010 noted the school already had a new senior management team and 12 new teachers.

Despite the turnover, an ERO inspection last September found the school to be "well placed", and it was put on a three-year review cycle - the most common and an indication the school was not a concern.

The Ministry of Education had earlier told ERO of its meeting with distressed parents in May last year. Issues discussed included the effect of teacher turnover on students and claimed discrediting of staff in public.

ERO's final report noted "significant change" to the teaching team, but said this appeared to be settling.

Mr McLauchlan has acknowledged the turnover at Rowandale but said it was for a variety of reasons and had no negative effect on student learning, and was in part driven by changes necessary to improve the school.

Principal's report
• The Teachers Council is investigating Judd McLauchlan, who resigned from his job at Hamilton's Berkley Normal Middle School this year.

• During a review of the school by the Education Review Office a number of staff expressed serious concerns over Mr McLauchlan's leadership and behaviour.

• More than 55 teachers left during Mr McLauchlan's four years leading Manurewa's Rowandale School.