Lecturer sacked for 'going public'

21st February 2003 at 00:00
A LECTURER was dismissed after he drew public attention to the fact that his college was being investigated.

Alan Cowood, 48, a health and safety lecturer at Grimsby College for 10 years, was dismissed for gross misconduct after revealing in a letter to FE Focus that Grimsby was one of 33 colleges being investigated by the Learning and Skills Council last year.

This week, he claimed unfair dismissal at a Hull employment tribunal. Mr Cowood, a steward for Natfhe, the lecturers' union, claims the college made pound;400,000 worth of false claims for courses going back four years.

Grimsby College denies his allegation that staff were instructed to alter registers to claim more money from the LSC. He told the two-day hearing: "I have been victimised and hounded out of my career as a professional teacher in further and higher education."

Mr Cowood said that in June 2001 he was asked by his curriculum manager, Michael Braham, to alter registers on all health and safety courses from 28 to 30 hours per week to justify claims for more money from the LSC.

"I didn't want to be associated with that," said Mr Cowood, who also admitted that the college disciplined him in September and December 2001 for fraudulently claiming overtime payments.

He met investigators from the Department for Education and Skills on March 5, 2002, about the funding claims. The college says he did not follow the proper "whistle-blowing procedures" and damaged the college's reputation among the profession and potential students by writing to The TES.

Grimsby College principal Daniel Khan told tribunal chairman David Burton:

"The college is totally clean and always has been. It is frustrating that the college has been tarnished. We have had the auditors and the Learning and Skills Council look at us. The investigations found nothing.

"He brought the college into disrepute. It is all down to the integrity of the college. We will not punish people who attempt to blow the whistle. We will not cover up what are matters in the public interest."

The tribunal panel has deferred its decision for four weeks.

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