Leicester school orders 'rude' city councillor Barbara Potter to keep away
A senior Labour councillor has been banned from a primary school after falling out with teachers and governors.
Councillor Barbara Potter, Leicester City Council's Labour group chief whip, has been issued with an order from Humberstone Junior School barring her from entering the grounds.
School managers are considering opting out of the Labour city council's control and becoming an academy – a move Coun Potter opposes.
An e-mail from the school, which has been passed to the Mercury, said Coun Potter tried to attend a meeting for parents about the issue on January 31, but was turned away as she does not have a child there. It claimed she stormed out, shouting that she had been barred.
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The e-mail also alleged she tried to attend a staff meeting and was rude and aggressive – shouting at a member of staff: "We pay your wages."
Speaking to the Mercury, Coun Potter said she had a genuine cause to attend the meetings, as the elected councillor for Humberstone, but denied the behaviour described by the school.
"I have been banned," she said. "I have no idea how long for."
She claimed the school was playing "silly, dirty tricks," and that she would be taking legal advice about challenging the ban.
Coun Potter, who as chief whip is responsible for ensuring Labour members' good conduct and discipline, said: "If I am guilty I would hold my hands up and admit it." In a statement issued yesterday, Coun Potter said: "The allegations made by the school are a complete distortion of the truth and I am taking legal advice. I have been trying to engage with the school on behalf of the community I represent over what is a significant issue regarding the school's future.
"I have behaved with dignity and courtesy throughout and will continue to do so."
Head teacher Annemarie Williams yesterday said: "I don't think it is a matter for public discussion and I don't want to say anything about it."
The Mercury also contacted one of the primary school's governors, who said they had been instructed not to speak about the issue.
The leaked school e-mail also said there had been protests about the academy move at the school gates involving councillors and National Union of Teachers (NUT) representatives, which led to complaints from parents that they were being harassed.
Leicester NUT secretary Ian Lever said: "We were very polite in the way we spoke to parents.
"We wanted people to take leaflets giving a different view and encouraging them to attend parent consultation meetings. It's counterproductive to go marching up to people wagging your finger."
He said it was "a bizarre step" for the school to ban Coun Potter.
The e-mail also claimed the matters had been reported to the police and that statements had been taken.
Coun Potter said she had not been interviewed.
A police spokeswoman said local officers were unaware of any statements being taken, but they were monitoring peaceful protests at the school gates.
Tory opposition councillor Ross Grant has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove complaining that councillors, unions and the local education authority were putting "aggressive" pressure on schools considering becoming academies.
Vi Dempster, Labour assistant mayor responsible for education, said: "It is not true to say the local authority has been in any way aggressive. There are a number of complexities in the proposal which make it vital that parents and other stakeholders are fully informed.
"I'm disappointed Coun Grant didn't contact me, as the council's executive lead, as I would have been very happy to explain this to him."