More than £1 million of taxpayers’ cash has been spent over three years by a Kirklees special school mainly to cover for staff being off sick.

Critics say the bill is indicative of the problems at Fairfield School, where many staff have been off with stress-related issues.

The Batley school’s spend on agency staff was more than £300,000 in 2015/16, on top of £562,000 the year before and £208,000 in 2013/14. The total bill for agency staff for the three years before 2013 was less than £74,000.

Fairfield is already at the centre of an investigation into high sickness absence and turnover of staff, amid allegations of teachers and staff being bullied and threatened.

Fairfield School at White Lee, Batley.

Head teacher Anne Tierney, who took over in March 2014, is currently absent from the school. Both Kirklees Council and the school’s board of governors have

declined to comment on her absence or give the reasons for it.

The school has said it will be getting long-term support from Ravenshall School, in Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, whose head teacher Jeanette Tate and staff have agreed to work with Fairfield from after Easter to the end of the summer term.

Nick Hughes, a former head at Fairfield who left in 2001, said: “The spending of over a million pounds is shocking but the human story behind this massive spending is even worse. Since September 2013 dozens of dedicated staff have had their careers ruined and their health damaged.”

Nick Hughes - concerns about Fairfield School
Nick Hughes - concerns about Fairfield School

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “There is a full investigation currently taking place so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Critics say problems at the school, which has 124 pupils with severe learning difficulties, began after former head Richard Ware left before the summer holidays in 2013.

The levels of stress staff say they have suffered were highlighted in a survey by Unison. Staff complained of an “awful” atmosphere and said Fairfield “is being brought to its knees.”

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The survey was carried out late in 2013, several months after Mr Ware had left, and before Ms Tierney started.

Staff said they had headaches, suffered from anxiety attacks, and felt depressed. One said: “At times situations have felt unsafe and it seems a miracle that an accident hasn’t happened.” Another said: “Staff are dropping like flies. We all fear for our jobs and health.”