We don’t reward bullying, college insists

Nicholas Terry, Graham Johnstone, Gordon Brown and Craig Thompson attend a graduation ceremony.
Nicholas Terry, Graham Johnstone, Gordon Brown and Craig Thompson attend a graduation ceremony.
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CLAIMS that management at one of Scotland’s largest colleges preside over a culture that “rewards victimisation and bullying” and treat the institution like a “plaything” have been denied.

A series of allegations against the management at Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy, have been posted on a website.

They criticised the managerial style of senior staff and suggested that some employees felt harassed by management.

The website, entitled It’s Our College, Not Craig’s, was set up earlier this week, although it is not known who is behind it.

Craig Thomson is principal at the college. His wife, Linda, is an executive director.

Yesterday, the college announced that the head of its management board, Graham Johnstone, had stepped down following an emergency meeting which was held on Thursday night. Insiders said Mr Johnstone’s departure came after a number of other senior figures had left the institution amid growing concern about how it is being run.

The website, which claims to be run by “interested parties” at the college, makes a series of demands including calling on unions to organise a vote of no confidence in the management.

However, it is not known who, or how many people, are behind the campaign and whether it reflects the beliefs of the majority of college staff.

The website alleges there is a “culture of bullying and harassment” by senior staff.

It continues: “As interested parties we can no longer stand by and watch good people and fair processes be usurped.

“Each year staff feedback highlights the declining morale in every area of the workplace and this year the Investors in People report was effectively buried by college management because the disillusionment among staff was overwhelmingly visible.

“Staff have been made ill by unreasonable and unreasoned requests, staff have been forced out of jobs, while the two executive directors named in the investigation have been rewarded with funded MBAs and doctorates to try, and fail, to turn them into decent managers.”

Allegations made against two senior executives are currently being investigated by college management.

Dr Thomson, who has been principal of the college since its creation in 2005, is a former teacher and teacher trainer who is believed to have counted former prime minister Gordon Brown among the guests at his wedding.

In a statement, the college confirmed the departure of Mr Johnstone, but said the board had “expressed confidence” in Dr Thomson’s management.

It said Thursday’s board meeting had agreed that supporting staff and management at the college would be the “key focus” for the institution ahead of an expected restructuring of further education across Scotland.

A college spokesman said: “A number of unfounded and quite ridiculous allegations are made on this website, which the college robustly refutes.

“Adam Smith College has strict procedures in place to deal with inappropriate behaviour and endeavours to investigate any official allegations made about any member of staff within the college.

“Allegations were previously made against two executive directors. These allegations are being fully investigated and will comply with our official procedures.”

All of Scotland’s colleges currently face an uncertain future after education secretary Mike Russell called for mergers to save money.

The further education sector will see its overall budget slashed from £544.7millon this year to £506.9m in 2012-13, with planned budgets of £494.7m in 2013-14 and £470.7m in 2014-15.

David Torrance, MSP for Kirkcaldy, said Mr Thomson’s position would be “untenable” if the allegations proved to be true.

He said: “The principal is in charge of the ship and this should have been under control a long time ago.

“I’m calling for his resignation if these allegations are proved founded.”