A BARRISTER suggested a former lecturer couldn’t cope when West Cheshire College became a vocational learning centre.
Robert Munday made the remarks during his cross-examination of ex-science lecturer Annabel Cooper of Capenhurst Lane, Capenhurst, at an employment tribunal in Liverpool.
Ms Cooper, who claims constructive unfair dismissal and a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act, resigned from her post at the Capenhurst campus in 2009. She felt unsupported by management in dealing with disruptive students.
Mr Munday said: “In 2005 there was a change at the college and it became a vocational Further Education College and since 2005 there have been many students who have had difficulties in education prior to coming to the college.
“There were many challenging students and it was part of the school ethos to be reluctant to exclude students.
“There are students with ADHD, with chaotic lifestyles, with alcohol and drug issues but it was the college policy that it was acceptable to use teachers’ first names, acceptable for students to have frank conversations with teachers.”
Against that background, Mr Munday accused Ms Cooper of occasionally calling students ‘animals’ when speaking to them, although she denied this.
He posed the question: “It’s right that since 2005 you have found it difficult teaching in the school?”
But Ms Cooper countered: “I taught level one school children, 14-16 years old, well, lots of them had ADHD, they had dyslexia, Irlens, dyspraxia, all sorts of things which I coped with and was quite successful in recognising and had them referred to a specialist within the college.”
Mr Munday claimed Ms Cooper ‘very rarely’ filled in staff comment sheets about difficult students and she admitted being reluctant after two members of staff who did had their cars ‘trashed’.
He said support was offered such as when she was asked to submit a lesson plan following a difficult lesson but Ms Cooper interpreted this as ‘another way of humiliation for me’ so didn’t respond.
Mr Munday, who claimed she was ‘often late’ for work and meetings, added: “Isn’t it rather the case that you were worried that if you showed a lesson plan it would show your planning was inadequate?”
The lawyer said action was taken when she reported a student for calling a fellow student by a racist name, leading to a suspension.
On another occasion, police were called in, he said, when she spotted a picture of cannabis plants on a student’s mobile phone although she said officers were actually investigating a report of students being in possession of stolen money.
The tribunal was adjourned due to illness in the family of Ms Cooper’s barrister Kate Hollyoak.