College turmoil as director wins right to return

0111026 SSFF stock asc 'stock photo Kirkcaldy - adam smith college, kirkcaldy
0111026 SSFF stock asc 'stock photo Kirkcaldy - adam smith college, kirkcaldy
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ADAM Smith College faces fresh turmoil after a decision to re-instate an executive director following a year on gardening leave.

The surprise move came exactly 12 months after the college imploded amid allegations that a bullying culture had been allowed to exist on campus.

Christine Sinclair, director of business, was one of three senior executive figures to take a leave of absence to allow the Scottish Funding Council to carry out its own detailed investigations into the management culture.

Both she and Linda Thomson, wife of former principal Dr Craig Thomson - who was suspended and then announced his resignation and retirement during a year of upheaval - have been absent from work since then. A third senior staff member accepted a severance package last year.

Last week, the Press understands staff were informed of Mrs Sinclair’s return after a successful appeal to a panel from the board of governors.

We understand she was due to return on Monday, but the college confirmed this did not happen.

‘’To date nobody has returned from gardening leave,’’ said a spokesman.

Now two unions have formally expressed their concern as part of a collective grievance, and sources have told the Press that at a meeting called for today (Thursday) they may go as far as a motion of no confidence in the board.

The college said it was ‘‘aware of the concerns local branch unions had raised’’ and ‘‘was working closely with them to resolve matters.’’

The board also came in for criticism from David Torrance, MSP who claimed its decision ’’undermined all the good work’’ put in by Martin McGuire, interim principal, since he took over following the suspension of Ian Harrington late last year.

He spoke of new tension on campus, and of staff turning up in his office in Kirk Wynd to air their concerns.

Mr Torrance was specific in his comments - his statement addressed ‘‘the recent decision by a few board members’’ and did not refer to any senior managers by name.

He said it ‘‘had resulted in a large number of college staff contacting my office once again in disbelief that an outcome such as this could have been reached.’’

Decision

Mr Torrance said many were ‘‘stunned and distressed.’’

He continued: ‘‘The decision by some board members has undermined all the good work previously and currently being done by the principal and his colleagues to create a safe, enjoyable and productive working environment.

‘‘Real progress has been made in the last few months towards achieving this goal.

‘‘This decision has now resulted in tension yet again within the college and the board urgently needs to readdress many of these issues to enable the college to move forward once again.’’

Mr Torrance met with the trades unions and Mr McGuire this week to discuss his concerns.

The interim principal also met with union leaders before issuing a statement.

Mr McGuire confirmed that the EIS and Unison had formally raised concerns ‘‘about a perceived risk to staff.’’

He added: ‘‘I want to reassure both staff and the unions that it is my duty as interim principal to create a safe working environment for all.

‘‘I will continue to work vigorously with all partners to ensure this is the case and would like to make it clear that bullying and harassment, in any form, will not be tolerated at the college.’’

And he stressed: “It is essential to make sure historic issues are not repeated and that the college is in the best shape possible for its future as part of Scotland’s regionalisation programme and the forthcoming merger with Carnegie College.”

Mr McGuire - the third man to occupy the college’s hot seat in a turbulent 2012 -spoke of the ‘‘significant period of change in the past year in an attempt to get the college back on track and ensure it is run with the values and behaviours appropriate to meet its ambitions. ‘‘

“Since I joined in October, I have received outstanding support from staff and the trade unions. I have sought to work in partnership with them to help create an environment where staff feel valued and enjoy coming to work and I believe we are making good progress towards this.’’

Meeting

A spokesman for the EIS in Edinburgh said: “We do not comment on any individual cases, including any relating to internal grievance or disciplinary matters.

‘‘Adam Smith College, in common with all educational establishments and other employers, is duty bound to provide an environment where all employees can be safe and secure in their workplace.

‘‘Any member of staff in any workplace who feels that their employer is failing in its duty of care should discuss this, in the first instance, with their local union representative.”

A board meeting was scheduled to take place last night (Wednesday).

The Press was unable to contact Christine Sinclair or Irene Morrison, chairman of the board of governors for comment.

>> Top job

THE search for the principal who will lead the new merged college in Fife is underway.

The Press understands interviews are underway and a shortlist has been drawn up - but it doesn‘t include Martin McGuire, current interim principal at Adam Smith.

He only took the post on secondment from Cumbernauld College and did not apply.
A spokesman for the college said: ‘‘His family are based in the west coast and this was only ever a secondment to Adam Smith College.’’