Fresh Start promises to be turbulent at Kings' Manor as unions pledge to defend staff not wanted in the revamped school. Cathy Comerford reports.
STAFF at Kings' Manor, the experimental "privatised" comprehensive in Guildford, are preparing to go to war over their jobs.
Backed by their union, they have promised to drag the Surrey school and its private-sector managers into a high-profile court case if they are replaced.
It will test whether schools can dismiss existing teachers when they change identity by closing down and re-opening with a new name - the sort of Fresh Start promoted by the Government.
This week ministers gave the green light to Kings' Manor's plan to be rename itself Kings' College and become run by a private sector (but not-for-profit) firm called 3Es from September 2000.
Marketed as a modern, "global" college for 11 to 18-year-olds, it will be the first state school in the country to have a private management.
But the National Union of Teachers vows to take up the case of any teachers not offered jobs at the revamped school.
Earlier this month The TES reported that, in a similar case, five teachers who lost their jobs in another Fresh Start initiative are to take the London borough of Merton to an industrial tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal.
The union says it is prepared to take cases to an employment tribunal, arguing the company is bound by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations, requiring staff to be employed with the same pay and conditions as before.
Tribunal findings do not set binding precedents but, if the company was found to be subject to the regulations, future tribunals which came to contradictory findings would be subject to appeal.
NUT solicitor Graham Clayton said: "We are prepared to go to an employment appeals tribunal, the Court of Appeal and even the House of Lords if we have to."
Stanley Goodchild, associate director of 3Es, the business arm of the original city technology college Kingshurst in Birmingham, has confirmed that there will be no guaranteed place for existing staff at the "new" school.
Mr Goodchild said: "We are looking at the staff at Kings' Manor but there will be no automatic transfer.
"We would expect those who want to move to agree with the ethos. It would be very unfair to anyone who did not feel that way.
"I don't think it is as dramatic as saying 'We are not going to have you'. We have had three discussions with each member of staff. We know what they want and we will try to satisfy their needs. If someone is burnt-out it would be a disaster for them. They need something very different."
Asked if he could guarantee teachers who wanted to work at the college their jobs he replied "Nothing in life is guaranteed."
Mr Goodchild said discussions had been held with unions at the school and relations were good.
The position at the college is, however, confused with the NUT claiming that, Mr Goodchild's firm had already promised staff jobs if they wanted them.
Colin Caswell, Surrey NUT secretary, said: "3Es made a statement saying they effectively accept the staff rights under the regulations to be transferred over when the enterprise takes over.If any of our members who wants a job in the new school is denied it, we will take up their case."
In the early 1990s, hundreds of public-sector employees became entitled to compensation under the regulations because their pay and conditions worsened when services were contracted out to private companies during the 1980s.
The Kings' Manor row broke just as 3Es finally appointed a principal, six months after the last head left.
David Crossley, who runs an international school in Brunei, was appointed as principal of the new college on October 5, after being headhunted by Mr Goodchild.
A first attempt to recruit a head for the college failed after the post was advertised in June. Despite receiving 100 applications, no one was appointed. Acting head Bob Allen has been running Kings' Manor since the former head, Greg Gardner, was seconded to the local authority in March.
The school has been plagued with falling numbers - it has 400 pupils in a 900-capacity site - and lower academic results than its neighbours. Three teachers were made redundant at the end of last term.
Mr Goodchild said: "David Crossley will be joining our planning team and we are now looking to appoint a vice principal and four or more assistant principals."
Assistant principal posts will be advertised nationally, he said.