Glasgow's Calderwood Lodge head teacher stands down

By Anna Sheinman, February 22, 2013
Calderwood Lodge school in Glasgow, focus of recent controversy (Photo: Robert Ormerod)

Calderwood Lodge school in Glasgow, focus of recent controversy (Photo: Robert Ormerod)

Just three months after the resignation of the chair of the Parent Council of Glasgow’s Calderwood Lodge, the head teacher of Scotland’s only Jewish school has also handed in her notice.

The announcement that Vanessa Thomson is leaving comes soon after the conclusion of a prolonged and heated disagreement over the denominational status of the school.

The argument, which had wide-ranging implications for the nature of religious education in the school, involved not just the school and its Parent Council, but also the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council (JRC) and East Renfrewshire Council.

In a letter to parents, Ms Thomson said: “I have been successful in obtaining a head teacher post in another authority.”

The reaction from parents of the now confirmed denominationally Jewish school has been varied. Sharon Abrahamson, who has two children at the school, said it was a chance for change.

“I think it’s for the benefit of the school that the head of the Parent Council and now the headmistress have moved on. This means there will be a clean slate,” she said.

It’s for the benefit of the school that she has moved on

- one of the parents

“Most parents are confident that the new head teacher will be supportive of a more religious curriculum.”

Colin Cowan, the new chair of the Parent Council, was equally optimistic, and suggested that in looking for a new head, “someone who has an understanding of a denominational school would be ideal”.

However, Mark Sherman, who left the Parent Council when its former chair Tony Tankel resigned in December, was less enthusiastic. He said that in the last Parent Council meeting it had become clear to him that the Parent Council was “not listening to the head teacher” and that she “must have felt alienated and isolated”.

He said that while the Parent Council and the JRC wanted to establish an independent organisation to air concerns about Jewish education, teaching and learning, Ms Thomson and the members of her staff at the meeting had made it clear that the school had to be the first port of call in any discussion about education.

Another parent, Richard Dover, said: “I can only express my thanks to Vanessa for her massive contribution to the school over the last couple of years and wish her every success in her new position.”

Ms Thomson, who spent three years in the role, her first as a head teacher, is to move to a larger school in a different local authority.

Last updated: 9:45am, February 22 2013