Halesowen staff escalate action

Halesowen College staff have pledged to boycott lesson observations as four sacked staff announced they were taking the college to an employment tribunal.

The University and College Union (UCU) said that from today around 60 of their members at the college, near Birmingham, would snub “anything to do with lesson observations” as the row over the sackings continued.

The union also claimed to have “discovered” that “replacement lecturers were appointed by the college last October — two months before the existing staff were sacked or had the opportunity to appeal against their dismissals”.

The union’s regional official, Nick Varney, said:  “The new teachers started work on the same day that three of the existing teachers had disciplinary hearings.

“It is extremely telling that members feel so strongly about the behaviour of college management that they have voted to continue taking action alongside the legal action that has the full support of the national union.”

The dispute began with the dismissal of maths lecturer and union branch chair David Muritu on the day before the college closed for Christmas. In January three other maths lecturers — also active union members — were sacked and, like Mr Muritu, have since lost their appeals.

The college said it dismissed Mr Muritu because of his students’ poor results.

At the time the college told FE Week they had provided the lecturer “intensive support” over a period of three years.

“However, David Muritu had failed to make any improvement in student attainment, and indeed the pass rate declined further over the period,” said a college spokesperson.

But the UCU claimed the former maths lecturer was “treated unfairly” labelling it an “attack” on union workers.

Mr Varney added: “At all the appeals the employer did not have enough evidence against the individuals to dismiss them and used students’ failure to achieve certain levels of attainment as a basis for sacking them. Not only is this unfair, but it threatens all lecturers’ jobs at the college.

“The industrial action makes the point that all the lecturers were sacked despite good teaching grades from their lesson observations.”

Union members took strike action on February 14, claiming they were “banned” from delivering a mock Valentine’s Day card to college principal Keith Bate with thousands of signatures calling for the sacked lecturers’ reinstatement.

FE Week reported last month how union members marched through the Midland town chanting support for the “Halesowen four”, as they have become known in press coverage, just a month after a picket on the same issue.

The college declined to comment on the union’s latest claims.