Discontent has been brewing at Halesowen College, Birmingham, following the summary dismissal of no fewer than four Maths teachers in the last month, including Dave Muritu, the College’s UCU Branch Secretary. The College has seen pickets, lobbies and widespread condemnation for its persecution of teachers, seemingly solely for raising issues of genuine concern to do with their students’ educations.
The College management’s reasons for the sudden firings remain unclear. They point to the apparently poor performance of the lecturers, despite the fact that their performances were above the national average, and the College itself rated all four as ‘good’ teachers in its own internal observation system. Management also accepts that there is no case for gross misconduct for any of the Halesowen Four, and they also failed to follow both their own disciplinary procedure and that of ACAS, the work disputes mediations body.
The sacked teachers themselves speculate as to their role in highlighting a number of issues which had made their work increasingly difficult, such as “refusal to pay for specialist cover (in spite of a huge surplus) for times of long term sickness and paternity leave, teaching in two different classes in two different rooms at the same time [and] groups being pushed together into one room even though they are supposed to be covering different material”.
It certainly seems unlikely that the four teachers – having received Grade 2 ratings when observed, in a system that has been criticised for its readiness to give Grade 3 ratings (average) – were targeted for being exceptionally poor, or indeed that removing them from their posts midway through the academic year (mid-term in the case of three of the four) will actually assist in the education of their students.
Indeed, as well as attending the lively pickets outside the College gates on cold, wet Monday mornings and joining the almost 10,000 signatures on the petition for the Halesowen Four’s reinstatement, many former students of Muritu et al in the Maths Department have emerged on Facebook to emphasise the quality of Muritu’s classes. This one, for example, from Claire Davies-Thompson, presents a very different picture to that of the College, which claimed that the students in the classes of the four teachers weren't "reaching their potential":
“My son who is a diagnosed epileptic & also has slight autism gets very stressed & struggles with sudden change! He took to Dave immediately as they both have such a shared passion for Maths! He was on line for an A/A* in the coming exams but now due to this we really worry this may not be achieved bearing in mind it is Dave's excellent teaching skills who have bought Ben to that stage! He needs to be reinstated immediately it is ludicrous that kids are going to suffer due to this as are exam results!”
The Halesowen Four case is another example of a growing tendency in education to use internal observation as a disciplinary tool; a means of breaking union branches and removing critical and principled staff.
The campaign has called for supporters to register their disgust with College Principal Keith Bates at KBATE@halesowen.ac.uk or write to him at:
More info can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/reinstatedavemuritu/?ref=ts&fref=ts and here: http://justiceforhalesowenfour.wordpress.com