'Fired for swipe at Essex English'
A SCHOOL music teacher says she has been sacked because of the comments she made about the Essex accent in her Chronicle column.
Visiting specialist Ruth Travers, 51, claims she was summoned by head teacher Susannah Edom-Baker, of Newlands Spring Primary School, Chelmsford, and formally dismissed.
Mrs Travers, of Galleywood, says her Thought for the Week article, published on July 5, referred to the Government's concern over the lack of literacy across the co untry.
In it, she wrote: "When I moved to Essex six years ago the thing I missed most was well spoken English.
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"I felt as if I had been transported to an alien planet where my ears were subjected to the distortion and abuse of English grammar and pronunciation constantly."
Mrs Travers, who is employed by Essex Music Services and teaches at several local schools, claims Mrs Edom-Baker took exception to a sentence in the column that read: ". . . my experience is that even teachers and learning assistants have very poor diction and vowel pronunciation."
Mrs Travers says she was accused of being disloyal to the school and that the comments in the article reflected upon herself and her staff.
Mrs Edom-Baker denies that she ever dismissed Mrs Travers.
She said: "Our school has converted to Academy status, so we are making changes to our arrangements. I wished to speak to Ruth in person regarding this and I did express my regret that the article appeared to be criticising the staff at the school, but this was not the reason for us reviewing our arrangements with Essex Music Services."
But Mrs Travers claims she was only ever criticised for the article, adding: "My column was not aimed at any particular school, but what is at stake here is freedom of speech."
Mrs Travers' teaching method was featured by the Chronicle last year, when 88 children at Newlands Spring and Bishops primary schools passed the London College of Music early learning test with flying colours, as part of a county programme to let every child in Essex learn an instrument for free.
Mrs Edom-Baker said at the time: "When we were looking to initiate the innovative step of teaching violin to Foundation Stage pupils... fortunately, Essex Music Services introduced us to Ruth Travers who began teaching both classes two years ago.
"This was so successful that we are now continuing this tuition in Years 1 and further into Year 2."
Chairman of governors at Newlands Spring primary school, Graeme Atkinson said: "Mrs Travers is not employed by the school, she is employed by Essex County Council as part of Essex Music Services.
"Newlands Spring becomes an Academy on August 1 and, as part of that process, we are reviewing all our external contracts, one of which is with Essex Music Services.
"We have decided not to renew that contract in September. Mrs Travers has not been dismissed by the school and no doubt she will continue to work for ECC at other schools."
He added: "Ruth Travers' Thought for the Week is clearly not a slur on Newlands Spring primary school, more a slur on my dearly adopted county of Essex."
But an Essex County Council spokesman, which runs Essex Music Service, said a new contract had been agreed.
He added: "The recent contract between us and the school expired at the end of summer term. A new contract has been agreed and we will be providing the most suitable person to meet their requirements.
"Ms Travers is still an employee of Essex Music Service."