College slams ‘false allegations’ from teaching union

Central Sussex College at Haywards Heath
Central Sussex College at Haywards Heath

Central Sussex College has accused a teachers’ union of being “needlessly provocative” following the decision to close its Haywards Heath campus.

College principal Sarah Wright hit back at the south east branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) after the latter criticised the way leaders had dealt with staff, parents and unions since the closure was announced.

Central Sussex College principal and CEO Sarah Wright - picture courtesy of Central Sussex College SUS-161104-144039001

Central Sussex College principal and CEO Sarah Wright - picture courtesy of Central Sussex College SUS-161104-144039001

NUT regional officer Ruth Serwotka claimed union requests to meet with the college’s management team had not been acknowledged – an accusation vehemently denied by Ms Wright.

With a number of staff facing redundancy, a consultation period was launched on April 13. Since then, she said, the college had met with staff and union representatives “who best represent the staff and have individual knowledge of them” on an almost daily basis.

Ms Wright added: “The college absolutely refutes any suggestion that it has not consulted properly and meaningfully with all parties since the announcement to close the Haywards Heath campus. We have followed all best practise guidelines and legal requirements in relation to consultation with staff.”

This was not the first time the NUT had accused Central Sussex of failing to consult over the closure of the Haywards Heath and East Grinstead campuses, nor was it the first time it had criticised Ms Wright.

Similar claims were made in April, when it accused the college of “complete financial incompetence”; and in March members issued a vote of no confidence against Ms Wright and her team over changes to the curriculum.

Despite the college launching the consultation in April and holding an information evening, the NUT accused leaders of “a failure to consult parents on future arrangements” – something a spokesman said amounted to “gross negligence toward the local community and staff”.

Ms Wright said all students who had applied for a place at the college had been offered individual advice, along with their parents.

The information evening was attended by representatives from a number of other further education providers, and, as a result, all applicants had been placed with alternative providers within 10 days.

Ms Wright added that the parents of all current students had been offered meetings with senior staff to discuss their concerns – an option taken up by more than 70 of them. Many others had been spoken to by telephone.  

Ms Wright said: “Regional NUT representatives are clearly totally ignorant of the arrangements that have been in place and continue to be needlessly provocative by making false allegations.”

The NUT also called for information about the future of the Haywards Heath campus, which has attracted interest from Warden Park Academy and The Gielgud Academy. 

Ms Wright said: “The prospects of a transfer of the Haywards Heath campus and sixth-form provision to a local school is entirely a matter for the Department for Education. If the NUT wish to discuss this, they should contact the DfE.”

The closure of the campus was announced in April, as the college acknowledged it could not manage its £25million mortgage debt.

The East Grinstead campus will close in September.

The Crawley campus recently celebrated the opening of its Advanced Technical Centre, which will provide an additional 770 places for students.

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