'Don't ditch our witch', parents urge school

A SCHOOL is trying to ditch a picture of a witch from its logo, claiming it deters teachers from joining the staff. Governors at Warboys Primary School have decided to drop the emblem of a witch on her broomstick from a school uniform after 60 more than

A SCHOOL is trying to ditch a picture of a witch from its logo, claiming it deters teachers from joining the staff.

Governors at Warboys Primary School have decided to drop the emblem of a witch on her broomstick from a school uniform after 60 more than years.

But the plans, which also include changing the uniform colour from green, have caused an outcry in the village, with parents, children and the parish council fighting to keep the witch.

The logo was originally chosen by a pupil in a school competition as Warboys was the last place in England to hang witches - three from the same family in 1593.

The emblem is also carried by the village sports teams - the football team is known as "The Witches" and there is even a witch on top of the clock tower in the village centre.

The new school governors believe prospective staff are reluctant to join the school when they see the witch on school stationery. But parents claim the real reason is the last Ofsted report in 2005 - despite the school being given a "satisfactory" grade and new headmaster Martin Kelsey joining the school in September.

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Angry parents packed a meeting of Warboys Parish Council on Monday, where councillors voted to protest formally at the move.

A petition calling for the school to "keep our witch" is being signed at shops in the village and signatures have now topped 1,000, including 250 on the Facebook website. And apparently sales in the village of the witch symbol as a badge (raising money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance) have rocketed.

After a heated discussion, the parish council said it would write to the school governors expressing "major concern" at the removal of the logo, saying "no credible argument had been put for doing it".

County Councillor for Warboys, Victor Lucas, who lives in the village and is a school governor, put the case for the school at the meeting.

A statement he read from the school that claimed high calibre staff had been put off by the witch emblem brought some laughter from parents and calls of "rubbish".

The statement added: "Witchcraft and Hallowe'en does not form part of the school curriculum and is something schools go out of their way to avoid."

However, Cllr Lucas told the meeting he said he had joined the governors after the decision and had always seen the witch as a "harmless emblem".

Parish councillor John Rignall claimed: "The reason good staff won't come is because of the Ofsted report." And Cllr Sally Pryke added: "The symbol is there to commemorate those poor people in the family who died, not to promote witchcraft.

"I can't believe that the people who are responsible for our children's education are so blinkered."

Parents told The Hunts Post they would rather money was spent on the children's education, school books and equipment than replacing the logo.

The father of two boys at Warboys Primary, Stuart Searle, said: "There was a consultation meeting on February 25 and the parents objected overwhelmingly to changing the uniform. We wanted to concentrate on other things, like raising academic standards. We thought the point was made.

"Then on the last of day of term - we received a letter saying that the uniform would change in September. It is disappointing that the school governors have failed to listen to the community that they want to support them."

The owner of the post office, Jill Pierce, told The Hunts Post: "This has gone well outside the school now. All our customers are signing the petition, some from other villages. Customers who have been here a long time feel it is a threat to their history."

Julie Murdoch, whose four-year-old daughter Izzy is due to start school in September said: "The witches are associated with Warboys as Catherine of Aragon is associated with Buckden. It is part of our heritage."

A statement from Warboys Primary School said: "The school has established a number of priority areas as part of the drive to move the school forward.

"As part of those improvements the governing body has decided to change the uniform from September 2008. This also includes the current witch logo.

"Not all current pupils in the school wear the logo and the school is aware that some parents choose not to send their children to Warboys and cite the witch as one of the reasons why.

"It is also known that some potential teachers and headteachers have cited the witch logo as a reason not to apply for posts.

"The school will find ways to develop children's understanding of the local history, but the main aim of the change is to establish a new uniform and logo that is accessible to all current and future pupils."

History: The Witches of Warboys

In 1593 Warboys was the last recorded place where witches were hanged.

Alice Samuels, in her late 70s, her husband John and her daughter Agnes were hanged after being accused by a 10-year-old girl, her four sisters and servants of causing them to have fits.

In November 1589 Jane Throckmorton, the daughter of the Squire of Warboys started suffering from fits and accused Mrs Samuel of causing them. By the New Year, Jane's sisters and some servants showed the same symptoms and also accused Mrs Samuel.

In September 1590, Lady Cromwell, the grandmother of Oliver Cromwell, also accused Mrs Samuel of being a witch - Mrs Samuel reportedly asked her why, since she had yet done her no harm.

After this, Lady Cromwell had nightmares and became ill. She died two years later.

Children continued to accuse Mrs Samuels until December 1592 when she begged them to stop having fits and they did.

The terrified old woman was taken to the Bishop of Lincoln to confess. She, her husband and her daughter were imprisoned and tried on April 5, 1593 for the murder by witchcraft of Lady Cromwell.