My story appeared on the front of today’s Leicester Mercury about 40 job losses at Riverside Business and Enterprise College, in Rowley Fields, Leicester.
The story was headlined “Doomed College May Axe 40 Staff”.
The school is due to close in summer 2011 but will drastically reduce its pupil numbers next year. As a consequence fewer staff will be needed.
Teresa Green, apparently a member of staff at Riverside, left a message on the Leicester Mercury website underneath the story. I reproduce it here, together with my response, which I also posted on the site, because I think it goes to the heart of some of issues involved with writing about a controversial topic.
I would appreciate further comments.
From Teresa Green, Blaby:
Just to put the record straight, Mr Wishart.
Thank you for the exposure but I assume this is a comment from one individual staff member? Not all staff feel DOOMED, unsupported, tarnished.
Perhaps a little more investigation was necessary before this went to print. Most of the staff I have spoken to today are angry at this report as it now puts the school in an akward position with our collegaues in other schools.
I have never expressed my feelings. We are professionals no matter the job we are in teacher or support or premises officers and value the work we have done and continue to do at Riverside.
Other schools are not treating us like second class, we have not had any contact with them about jobs and only a very small number of staff have been on interviews.
We needed you Mr Wishart a long time ago before closure was confirmed we do not need this sort of headline now especially as it is not true.
There is obviously not much to report today on the streets of Leicester. In fact life at Riverside is okay, just watch this space in August when we exceed GCSE targets.
We are concentrating on education and not back biting other colleagues insecure posts. Its a huge shame we are closing, almost a sin but we are and have to move on.
Headlines and throw away comments from aggrieved staff members will certainly not help us now.
Perhaps we are DOOMED after this report.
From Ian Wishart, education correspondent, Leicester Mercury:
Thanks for commenting. You are wrong to assume the story is based on only one individual member of staff. Several people had input into the story, some quoted, some not.
At no point does the story question the professionalism of the staff. In fact quite the opposite. The quotes from the members of staff, and particularly the comments from Peter Flack of the NUT, highlight the quality of Riverside staff – and why any belief to the contrary would be unfair.
The quote from one of the staff members makes it clear that any question mark about the professionalism of staff at Riverside would be wrong. And points out the increasing GCSE results.
At no point do we say that all staff feel doomed, unsupported or tarnished. Clearly some staff do.
Nor indeed are we saying that staff are backbiting colleagues in other schools. (Incidentally, “doomed” in the headline – and I don’t write the headlines – is a statement of fact and not a subjective comment on the feeling of staff.)
The fact that the unions were unhappy with the original redundancy offer from the local authority (not mentioned in the story) shows that there is concern about the support given to find new jobs.
I agree, it is a huge shame Riverside is closing.
However, contrary to there being “not much to report on the streets of Leicester”, 40 redundancies by a public organisation is a matter of public interest. The comments by the members of staff in the story are genuinely held and are worthy of reporting – it is not me, nor the Leicester Mercury, saying these things but people closely affected.
They clearly do not represent everybody’s opinion, and that is always the case.
Thank you for adding your comment which adds another side of the story and therefore increases people’s understanding of the subject.
And, as ever, I am genuinely looking forward to reporting on Riverside’s GCSE results in August.