College accused of covering up bullying ‘bullying’ at college

AN investigation has been launched into the running of one of Scotland’s largest colleges amid claims its management buried a report into allegations of bullying against the principal’s wife.

The Scottish Funding Council has confirmed it is looking into allegations involving Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy after being instructed to intervene by education secretary Michael Russell. A website and online campaign has been launched against college principal Dr Craig Thomson, which claims there is a culture that “rewards victimisation and bullying”.

The websites allege the college board attempted to suppress an internal report into allegations of bullying by two of the college’s executive directors, one of whom is believed to be the principal’s wife, Linda Thomson.

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Yesterday, the Scottish Funding Council, which provides money to colleges and universities on behalf of the Scottish Government, said it was seeking assurances from the institution’s management.

A spokeswoman said: “It is essential that the appropriate procedures are used by colleges and their boards to deal with these types of allegations and ensure that governance is maintained.

“We have written to the acting chair of the board to seek further detail of the allegations and the actions the college is taking to address these issues. We have also asked for assurance that the college’s governance and management practices continue properly and effectively to serve the needs of learners. We expect see these issues resolved quickly.”

Last week, a website entitled It’s Our College, Not Craig’s was set up, calling on unions to organise a vote of no confidence in the management.

One member of staff, who did not want to be named, said: “There’s been a culture of bullying at the college for the last four to five years.

“The governance of colleges is an absolute shambles – it’s all ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’. Our principal is paid more than the First Minister for managing what is a relatively small institution.”

The source said staff had been left ill and some had reportedly contemplated suicide due to bullying at the college.

Dr Thomson said he had now begun a series of open meetings and discussions with staff across the college’s Fife campuses following the allegations made online.

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He said: “All staff at Adam Smith College should have the absolute right to come to work, to do a good job and to work safely and securely. Safety and security are critically dependent on reasonable and respectful behaviour on the part of colleagues and management staff.

“There are clearly a number genuine concerns that staff wish to bring to my attention. However, a number of the allegations made are totally unfounded and quite ridiculous.

“In order to reassure staff and in the spirit of open engagement, I feel it’s very important for me to meet face-to-face with all staff members to discuss any concerns they may have.”

Commenting on the allegation relating to the burying of an internal report, a spokesman for the college said: “An internal report covering a number of points has been considered by the board. These include issues to do with the ways in which some staff have been managed.

“The board expressed concern about the time that was being taken to investigate and respond to a number of the issues raised in the report. As a result, two board members resigned.

“However, following reassurances and further consideration, one has since withdrawn their resignation.”