Teacher blew the whistle - now three face the sack
TEACHERS at a North West London comprehensive school are to ballot on strike action in defence of colleagues whom they feel are being victimised. Three staff have been suspended after a row over 'the boss''s bonuses. Staff at the Copland Community College in Wembley are also likely to lobby Brent council, whose planning committee meets next Tuesday evening (April 28) to discuss plans for a second City Academy on land at Wembley Park.
Although the suspension of three teachers is not officially linked to either the exposure of top pay at Copland or the opposition to the City Academy, all three are union representatives. First to be suspended, last Friday, was geography teacher Hank Roberts, who has led the campaign against the academy plan by teachers and local residents,which included a tent occupation of the site. Opponents say that besides transferring children's education and resources from a democratically accountable local authority to a private body, the Wembley Park plan would deprive the community of sports fields, worsen traffic problems, and create an expensive white elephant school at the wrong end of the borough, within walking distance of an existing comprehensive.
The Greater London Authority turned down the planning application in January, so that Lib Dem- controlled Brent has had to come up with a revised version.
But it was the issue of top money that has brought Copland into the news this month. "Comprehensive head picks up £130,000 bonus over two years" (Times, April 7). "Are there really teachers among the fat cats?... Step aside, bankers. Now teachers are in the firing line over bonuses.(Guardian Education, April 7). Once again it was union representative Hank Roberts making the news.
Speaking at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers(ATL) annual conference, in Liverpool, Roberts said that Copland, a specialist science and technology school, had paid senior teachers up to £1 million in bonuses over the last seven years. He had handed a dossier on the bonuses to the Audit Commission and Ed Balls, the education secretary.
Head teacher, Sir Alan Davies, was paid £65,000 in 2003-04, taking his salary to £162,000. This is £16,000 less than what the prime minister was paid that year. Last year, Davies received an £80,000 bonus.oberts said: "I'm putting my job on the line because it's absolutely wrong to be giving these kinds of bonuses. The sickness of bonus culture has infected state-funded schools".
Controversy over the bonuses has continued, with some arguing that unlike bankers, the teachers have been rewarded for hard work and success, in turning around the 2,000-pupil school's academic record and status. (Some 52 per cent of Copland pupils obtained 5 GSCE passes, including English and Maths, at C level or higher, one perecnt more than the average for London).
Chairman of the Copland governors Indravadan Patel said Sir Alan was "worth every penny". The head had raised private sponsorship worth £300, 000 for the school. Mr.Patel said Copland was proud that it paid its staff more than the nationally agreed pay rates. "This is not money for nothing. We expected them to work for it, and they do."
Some former pupils of Copland said it was a pity extra money had not been available to improve facilities and the state of the school buildings. Teachers who preferred to remain anonymous made similar points.
Education secretary Ed Balls declined to comment on Copland specifically; but in contrast with his previously publicised opposition to the London living wage for lower paif workers, said that in general he sympathised with linking head teachers' pay to performance, and with bringing private sector-style leadership and pay rates into state schools.
Adding a twist to the story, the Evening Standard quoted Hank Roberts saying that Sir Alan's son and son-in-law are employed as caretakers, while his sister works in the school office. "I do not believe that state-funded schools should be family firms." He condemned the "gold rush" in state schools, particularly among heads of privately sponsored city academies.
Roberts was suspended last Friday, and since then two colleagues have been dealt with the same way. Last night Brent Trades Union Council heard from a Copland teacher that staff had met, including members of the National Union of Teachers(NUT), NASUWT, and ATL, and decided to ask for a strike ballot. The trades union council agreed to support them, and to keep up its opposition to the City Academy plan by joining the lobby of the planning committee on April 28. .