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Problems at Royal College for the Blind 'masked by Paralympics celebration'

25 June 2008

The nomination of Hereford Royal National College for the Blind as one of the sites for the 2012 Paralympics has been received somewhat sceptically by UCU. While this should be a real mark of success, says UCU, the accompanying celebration masks some serious problems at the college.

Consultants were brought in last year to advise on reorganisation of the college. Many teaching staff believe that a restructuring is seriously hampering the study choices of students in their care. But the college has refused for more than a year to have any dialogue with the teachers' union about staff and student concerns.

The college does not even allow union members to meet their union officials on its premises and they have had to hire a local church hall. UCU plans to use legal procedures to seek recognition so that it can get into meaningful talks with the college. Meanwhile many staff, fearful of raising concerns individually, are speaking out through their union to alert the wider community.

UCU regional official, Nick Varney, said: 'We have been inundated with worries about the loss of large chunks of the curriculum. Some students do not know if their learning will be available next year. Some are worried that they will lose the chance to study in a safe, specialist college environment. Teachers are heartbroken as they watch the reduction of courses and resources which have been carefully built over years.

'UCU has made repeated requests to talk with the college but we have been refused. We now have to represent long-serving teachers who are being sacked after selection processes that have never been negotiated.

'Attention to the Paralympics 2012 may be distracting the management at the college from the concerns of some students, their families and teaching staff. This is not in the spirit of the Paralympics or the college's aims and it is causing distress to the visually impaired students and dedicated staff affected.

'Our UCU members at the college have been unwilling to make a fuss, even though their jobs are at stake, but now feel they must bear witness to management decisions which could damage student options, and must alert the wider community to what is taking place.'

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