Teaching union leader sacked after three weeks

THE leader of one of Scotland’s main teaching unions has been sacked after less than a month in the job.

A teaching union leader has been dismissed from the job less than a month into her tenure. Picture: PA

Lawyer Sheila Mechan, 55, was appointed general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) after a lengthy search to replace her predecessor, Ann Ballinger.

The union, which has around 7,500 members, blamed the “immediate breakdown of a significant number of crucial working relationships” for her dismissal, which followed a nine-day period of suspension.

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Ms Mechan said she is now taking legal advice after a sudden parting of the ways following what she described as “an almighty row” behind the scenes.

It is understood she has had a number of disagreements with her deputy, Alan McKenzie, who had acted in the role before she took up the post at the beginning of this month, and the SSTA’s president, James Forbes.

It was confirmed last night that she was suspended from her £76,000 post on 19 April, fewer than two weeks after taking up her new job, on 7 April.

An employment law specialist, Ms Mechan was unveiled as the new general secretary of the SSTA in February, despite having no previous teaching experience. Her appointment was confirmed at the beginning of March when it emerged no other candidate had stood against her.

Ms Mechan, who was born in Glasgow and attended the city’s Notre Dame Academy, had previously worked in the publishing industry, helping to launch in-house magazines for Asda and Waitrose, before starting to study for a law degree in 2002.

At the time of her appointment, Mr McKenzie said: “We are thrilled to welcome Sheila Mechan to the SSTA, bringing as she does a huge range of skills necessary for the post. Our members may be assured that the SSTA is in the hands of a highly-skilled general secretary.”

A spokesman for the SSTA said yesterday: “We can confirm that Sheila Mechan’s employment as general secretary was terminated on Monday.

“This decision is regrettable, but given the immediate breakdown of a significant number of crucial working relationships, the SSTA decided it was in the association’s best interests to move quickly to resolve the situation.

“Former deputy secretary Alan McKenzie will resume the position whilst the recruitment of a new, permanent general secretary is undertaken.”

Ms Mechan used her first media interview earlier this year to attack the Scottish Qualifications Authority, accusing it of “bragging” about achievements while dismissing teachers’ concerns over curricular reform.

She said the SQA had been “dismissive, even cloth-eared” about concerns over new national qualifications, with teachers “left holding the baby”.