Sealed with a diss: Glasgow's war of words continues

24th April 2015 at 01:00
Now board's role in principal's suspension is being questioned

The role played by Glasgow's controversial regional college board in the suspension of a principal in the city has been called into question.

In a letter seen by TESS, former Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board (GCRB) member Maureen McKenna - who resigned from the body earlier this month - questions assurances by the board and its chair, former first minister Henry McLeish, that they had no involvement in the action taken against Glasgow Clyde College principal Susan Walsh in February.

Ms Walsh was suspended by the college just weeks after her leadership was praised in an inspection report by Education Scotland. The Scottish Funding Council subsequently announced an investigation into the conduct of the board.

In the letter to Mr McLeish, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Ms McKenna writes that, as part of the ongoing review of the decision to suspend Ms Walsh, she was shown related documents "with GCRB heading". "The bulk of the questions I was asked [by those heading the review] all related to relationships between the principals and the board, and I was specifically asked about you [Mr McLeish]," she adds.

`Unfounded and untrue'

The former first minister told TESS that any suggestions of the board having a hand in Glasgow Clyde's decision to suspend Ms Walsh were "completely unfounded and untrue".

"Regrettably, the GCRB has been used as a stage by a very small number of people to act out the issues currently being dealt with at Glasgow Clyde College," he said. "No issue had been raised with the board at any meeting, or with the chair or the staff, until the events at Glasgow Clyde College took place. The allegations that the GCRB was involved in the suspension of the principal are completely unfounded and untrue."

In her letter to Mr McLeish, Ms McKenna, Glasgow City Council's education director, also says that her work around the new curriculum for Glasgow's colleges received little recognition from the board.

"You and the [SFC] asked me to undertake that work in a very short timescale and yet you, as chair, barely acknowledged its existence at [a recent] meeting.I am asking myself now why we were asked to do this work when it was swept so quickly off the table at the meeting and in the minutes," she writes.

The GCRB was formally established last year to take responsibility for further education in Glasgow. Last month, TESS revealed that the board's estimated running costs for 2015 stood at pound;376,000, a figure that has been criticised as "extravagant" by NUS Scotland.

Along with Ms McKenna, Pamela Gillies, principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, announced her resignation from the board earlier this month. She was followed days later by the board's two student representatives, who both cited concerns over governance.

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said students were keen to play a role in the running of their regional boards, but added that "many will rightly have concerns about what they've seen happening at Glasgow".

"Rather than being able to focus on what should matter most - the experience for students - the college board is spending its time caught up in a mess of its own making," he said.

"It's no surprise that students have felt compelled to resign in the past couple of weeks, and many more will rightly be wary of getting involved in a board that has seen resignations and such worrying examples of bad governance."

`Serious questions'

The EIS teaching union has raised concerns about nearly pound;100 million of further education funds placed in "arm's-length foundations" over the past two years.

That figure emerged from an Audit Scotland report and a Freedom of Information request by the union.

General secretary Larry Flanagan, pictured, said that the option of this funding being pooled by government for reinvestment across the sector had been removed.

He added: "Given that these substantial cash reserves have been built up at a time of significant austerity and cuts to FE provision, this raises serious questions about whether this money is being put to best use to support learning and teaching across Scotland."

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