A year ago, Bournemouth and Poole College and the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians carried out an act of senseless destruction, which was not in the interests of the children in my opinion

(Post made at 1727 UK BST time on 11 May 2018 in a personal capacity.  Please see here for important background and disclosure of interests).

An act of destruction


11 May 2017: an act of destruction at the College and the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians

In my view, a year ago (on 11 May 2017), Bournemouth and Poole College and the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians carried out an act of senseless destruction, which was not in the interests of the children or the Centre.  By dismissing a very popular teacher after 13 years of extremely dedicated service, without notice, explanation or thanks, and 3 weeks into the start of the summer term. The day after she had raised concerns informally over the management style at the Centre. She left that meeting (with a senior person at the College) feeling that her concerns had been listened to, and with the understanding that things were going to improve. Yet the very next day she was dismissed in such a callous, senseless manner.

The teacher concerned – my wife – was devastated.  Many, many, parents told us that they were too, and most important, 60 to 70 children from the Wessex Starter and Middle Strings were unable to understand why a teacher they had known in several cases for years (and in many cases had been very fond of) had disappeared suddenly, without reason or even being able to say goodbye.  Many parents found it incredibly difficult to explain to their children what had happened. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether the College’s actions then and since are in line with its stated culture.

The College’s stated culture and values are (from here, the bold emphasis is mine):

“Our mission
Through inspiring teaching and learning, we develop our students’ work skills, life skills and knowledge, and so help to build a thriving local economy and community. Read our strategy here. 

Our values
A passion for learning and success
Supportive and caringRespectful and considerateA champion for equality through learning
Ambitious and tenacious”

The home page of the Centre website says (again, the bold emphasis is mine): 

“We’re very proud of our family-friendly atmosphere, why not try it yourselves?”

Serious question marks must arise over the culture at an organisation which professes to have a family-friendly atmosphere and to help to build a thriving local community but at which:
  1. Expressing concerns over a superior’s management style informally with that superior’s line manager is followed by immediate dismissal without notice, explanation or thanks the very next day. (How can anyone have confidence in the College’s complaints procedure if trying to raise concerns informally can be treated this way? What kind of a “family-friendly atmosphere” is it where raising any kind of concerns leads to expulsion? How “supportive and caring” was the College’s behaviour in this instance?)
  2. A year after this happened, the College’s website still advertises that teacher as teaching this course.  This is despite the College having been informed about this 4 weeks ago and having been asked to correct this. So Bournemouth and Poole College is a place at which you can be told your services are not wanted, but for the next year at least the College still advertises you as teaching that particular course! Is it “supportive and caring” to do this, or on the contrary doesn’t it add insult to injury?
  3. I was reliably informed that in the weeks after the event last May, the College forbade some parents from discussing the possibility of calling a SWYM (Society for Wessex Young Musicians) EGM (and possibly other topics too) on College premises.  Also that a security guard intervened to halt a conversation between a small number (I believe 2) of CWYM parents in the car park. (See here)
  4. The College has provided false information to other schools in the area. 
  5. While publicly claiming that the Centre cooperated well with other schools and musical ensembles, in reality cooperation had been extremely poor on several occasions (see here for one example, I provided the College with evidence from several other teachers who felt that cooperation had been minimal). How is this in line with “helping to build a thriving local economy and community”? How is providing false information in line with a “family-friendly atmosphere”? What kind of values does such behaviour teach staff and children?
  6. Shortly after the event, the College issued a feedback questionnaire to CWYM parents which was biased a) by having different questions for different groups (e.g. the question asking about the quality of the teaching was omitted from the form sent to WYO parents), b) by not sending it to some parents, c) by not having any quantitative scores (thus making it impossible to show what the average score was), and d) not being collated by an independent organisation.  Not surprisingly the results of the survey did not include the concerns that I know several parents had raised.
  7. The College has on several occasions acted outside the Freedom of Information Act by being late with Freedom of Information requests (see here and here) and internal reviews (2 requests I made last summer are still outstanding despite the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) stating that reviews” should take no longer than 20 working days in most cases, or 40 in exceptional circumstances”) . It flatly refused to answer reasonable questions, e.g. when I raised questions about the fairness and reliability of its feedback questionnaire.
  8. The College accepted without qualms the results of an extraordinarily biased formal complaints process last year in which the College attempted to swear everyone involved to secrecy (despite there being no mention of this in the College’s Complaints Policy), witnesses from one side were not interviewed, and written evidence supplied (copies of emails) was disregarded on the grounds that the witnesses’ body language could not be assessed. (How convenient that the investigator did not interview those particular witnesses.  And in any case, courts of law accept written evidence, so who are the College to say that they won’t? Shouldn’t it say in their Complaints Policy that only verbal evidence will be considered? On the contrary, was the written evidence disregarded because it supported the formal complaints that I and my wife had made? This written evidence included significant concerns raised by parents over the way their children had been treated at the Centre/College) 
  9. Despite clear evidence that this process had been severely tainted, the College refused to allow an appeal against the results of the complaints investigation, or to consider any further correspondence at all (see here).

WSS and WMS players and parents – we really miss you!

As mentioned, my wife had taught at the Centre for 13 years. It was very much a labour of love. I too had spent many years acting as a volunteer at the Centre, mainly acting as accompanist, but also as webmaster/Facebook page administrator and SWYM Chairperson.

To this day, we both really miss the children and parents of WSS and WMS. We think of you very often, and fondly. We remember all the great times we had watching the young players develop over the years, and we look back on some wonderful performances.

We are not expecting to come back however. We are now doing other things and we wouldn’t want to anyway unless there was clear evidence of significant improvements having been made.

The College Board should be acting to promote good culture

In my opinion, the Bournemouth and Poole College Board (which still remains silent) needs to seriously consider a) how to put things right, and b) how to improve the culture at the College and the Centre.  Otherwise, what is to prevent similar things happening in the future? What checks and balances are there in place to stop similar actions which are not in line with the College’s stated values? What else may be going wrong that the College may not find out about for years (if at all) because of the culture of silencing those who speak out?

If speaking out about violations of those values leads to expulsion, then there are no checks and balances, are there?

To those on the SWYM Committee who actively tried to stop me speaking out (despite in some cases having told me that they agreed that things were not as they should have been), and

To the small minority of SWYM parents who claimed that there is nothing wrong and actively tried to stop me speaking out:

Sorry, but the weight of professional evidence about what makes a good organisational culture is against you.

2 thoughts on “A year ago, Bournemouth and Poole College and the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians carried out an act of senseless destruction, which was not in the interests of the children in my opinion

  1. As loyal members of staff and volunteers, I believe that if there were differences in opinion, it should have been allowed to be discussed and compromised. What you did was valued by many, and for many years, I for one am eternally grateful in receiving the best possible start in music. To be dismissed, without explanation and without a discussion of how things could be done differently initially, I believe is disrespectful to your previous loyalty.

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  2. Thanks Mark. Disrespectful: yes, but I think far more: unethical. As has a lot of the College/Centre's behaviour, in particular the very damaging way it behaved towards other music groups in the area, e.g. in this refusal to support a school's weekday concert when there was a clash (due entirely to the secret WYO rehearsal schedules, which is again unethical in my view) with a WYO *extra* rehearsal (one of many). (See https://musicmattersandculture.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/response-by-cwym-refusing-request-by.html). And all the while (despite several teachers telling me this was untrue), the College/Centre was claiming that it did its best to support schools (“school comes first”).

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