Plight of the "Halesowen Four" a reminder of huge college changes

First published in Letters

Your articles on the Halesowen College dispute over the sacking of a maths lecturer and union rep (Jan 10) shows differences over the question of classroom support.

The principal says: "it is vital that action plans are put in place with additional support and resources". The lecturer involved says: "the maths department has had its problems because of understaffing and the college not employing specialist teachers as cover".

So the question would seem to be: was proper support made available to the maths department? Who will decide this matter?

The article says three other lecturers face disciplinary proceedings although replacement lecturers have already been employed. This reminds me of my own case at a nearby college when, after more than 24 years, I was sacked without any reference to the disciplinary or capability agreements which bore the principal's signature, and which I had been involved, as union rep, in negotiating.

The climate in schools and colleges has changed significantly since I started teaching in the mid-1970s. In the end, this change of climate drove me out. I know many teachers who are disillusioned not so much with teaching as with the teaching environment. Is it this which lies behind the situation at Halesowen College?

The present teaching environment, like a lot else in the country, is a product of the reforms brought in in the 1980s. The Education Reform Act, 1988, brought in league tables, funding linked to pupil numbers, etc. These have created an environment in which exam results have become the equivalent of sales figures for a private business.

And yet, looking at British society and economy today, after three decades of these reforms, how many people can say they have been successful?

John Payne, Dudley Green Party, Halesowen.

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