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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mr Andrew Kirby (formerly of Harrow House, Swanage)

A story of woe from almost 10 years ago, but mercifully the gutless bullying dickhead (i.e., the Principal) in question no longer works there. My thanks to Lolwhites for this pleasant little item.

The Principal of Harrow House, Swanage, Mr Andrew Kirby, took me on as a teacher at the end of March 1997. During my time there I volunteered for the "staff revue" i.e. some short plays about teaching, performed for the students in our own time and paid for with a few beers afterwards; I was happy to do this in order to get to know my colleagues a bit better and earn a few brownie points.

As well as teaching, we were expected to give up one (paid) Saturday every couple of months to take the students on some organised trip. When I took a group to Oxford, a couple of them failed to show up for the coach home (everyone else had the right time and place) and we had to leave without them; they complained to the school and I was told off for not having phoned the school to say what had happened, which was fair enough as it goes though I had never been advised what to do in such circumstances until after the event.

In any case, I was trusted to take another group to Brighton a couple of months later and that passed off without incident. Unless you count the fact that when we went to the Pavilion, they hadn't heard of us, in spite of assurances from the Events Officer that we had been booked in and were expected - the students had to pay their own entry and get reimbursed later, but I'd rung the school and cleared it with them first.

Apart from that, I had no indication that anything was wrong with my work, until one day in June/July (I forget exactly) when the ADoS walked into my class and announced she was going to observe it (no advance warning, so no detailed lesson plan). Now, I admit the lesson could have gone better - if the video in the room had been working properly it would have certainly helped - but at the end the ADoS rushed off and didn't answer me when I asked when we could meet for a feedback session.

The next suspicion I had that anything might be wrong was on the Friday afternoon, when I noticed that my name had been removed from the timetable on the wall in the staffroom. At midday I'd been pleasantly surprised to see I had a very full timetable the following week and was down to teach every session, but by 5pm my name had vanished.

After the weekly staff meeting, Mr Kirby took me to one side and asked if he could speak to me in his office for a moment. As soon as we were alone he turned round and told me that it had been decided to terminate my contract. He then gave me the letter to say that I had one week's notice but was not required to work for that week. When I asked why, his exact words were "I don't want to go into details except to say that it was a management decision". In other words, "You're sacked and I'm not going to give you any explanation".

I later found out that he'd done exactly the same to another colleague on the same day - apparently he gave her 30 minute to clear her desk, no reason given. Incidentally, I'd read Harrow House's policies and there was something about the right to have a colleague present at meetings with the Principal; I can only conclude he tried to be as discreet as possible in front of the others so I wouldn't know what was coming and ask for a colleague to come with me. So the guy ignored his own rules.

As it was summer I found work fairly quickly elsewhere. The following year I worked at another school in Bournemouth where the DoS was so happy with my work he wanted to extend my contract past the summer (though by then I'd already made up my mind to leave TEFL and do a PGCE). While at this school I was observed by someone from UCLES for the practical half of the DTEFLA, which I passed.

The upshot? I can't see that there could have been anything wrong with my teaching. If there was, a professional manager would have told me what the problems were, and what I should be doing about them, not fire me without warning.

Now I've seen some dodgy outfits in my time but I can safely say that I have never seen anything more shoddy, unprofessional or downright gutless than what Andrew Kirby did to me and my colleague that day. I'm not saying "don't work at Harrow House", especially as he is no longer working there - but watch your back [if you ever cross paths with Mr Kirby in the future].


Inspector McHammered of the Lard

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Objective 01 said...

Mr Kirby's employment, you would have found had you done some research, was terminated in September 2005. The position of Principal at Harrow House was made redundant at this time.

I am positive many Harrow House employees, past and present, would agree with your sentiments about Mr Kirby.

Pehaps in the future you should get your facts straight before going on a rant about occurances 10 years ago. But this is what one comes to expect from Guradian readers with no sense of responsible and well-informed journalism.

M. le Prof d'Anglais said...

Firstly, I am delighted to hear that Mr kirby no longer works at HH, and that potential teachers can be confident that they can apply for a position there without having to work under him. I am heartened that you seem to corroborate my remarks about him when you say "I am positive many Harrow House employees, past and present, would agree with your sentiments about Mr Kirby."

As for the rest of your post, I would point out that:
1) The fact that the "occurances [sic]" took place nearly 10 years ago is immaterial; my experience of bullies, whether n the playground or the workplace, is that they carry on for as long as they can get away with it, and this guy got away with it for 8 more years.
2) As to whether or not my story constitutes a "rant", I'll leave that for readers to decide whether or not it fits the definition; the OED definition is "A high-flown, extravagant, or bombastic speech or utterance; a piece of turgid declamation; a tirade." You might describe my language as "high-flown, extravagant or bombastic" but I thought it was pretty restrained except for the final paragraph.

Your cheap jibes about "Guradian [sic] readers"

Finally, let me make one thing absolutely clear: My comments were directed at Mr Kirby and NOT Harrow House, as anyone giving the text a more than cursory skim will see.

Inspector Mchammered of the Lard said...

Fair comment, Ian. I'll amend the entry to refelect more on Mr Kirby and his (lack of) management style, rather than HH. Still, why did it take so long to actually get rid of him?!


Hypersonic said...

I really didn't understand what the first poster was so upset about. If they agreed with the sentiments of the anecdote why harangue the person recounting the story.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he turned up here...


Anonymous said...

I am a TEFL teacher and I have recently sponsored a student on a Harrow House sandwich course. I have been appalled at the college's lack of duty of care for the student over the whole placement period. They cut short his initial time at the college on the basis of having an early prime placement for him. It eventually transpired that HH just wanted to get him placed "somewhere" and placed him at Alton Towers. here, he received no college initiated contact or follow-up and Alton Towers just used him as a "labourer" with absolutely no interest in his personal development. The management and supervisory staff (who were of dubious management calibre) were only interested in getting tables cleared and re-set for the large number of guest covers. He was placed by a local estate agent in "homestay" accommodation - supposedly to help with his use of spoken English. HH took no interest or part in this, leaving it to Alton Towers who didn't care where he lived so long as he got to work on time. (.....and incidentally made him pay his fare every day - out of taxed income - for the staff bus!)The "homestay" was with a single man of 67 years of age who spent little time in the house and when he did, he heavily smoked cigarettes. (The student is a non-smoker). Representations by me to the college were met with a "mind your own business" attitude. The student of course, being a foreign national preferred to tolerate the situation rather than raise any issues. He is now nearing the end of his placement at Alton Towers and has hated what should have been an enhancing life experience in a foreign country. His English has hardly improved at all and his Hospitality Industry experience has been limited to subservient restaurant activities in a low class high-volume restaurant. Eight days from the end of his placement, he has had absolutely no contact from the college about where he will be staying for the final 2 weeks of his course in Swanage. I would urge any foreign student considering HH to think again and find another college providing a hospitality course in the UK. On a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (Excellent) I rate this college and its hospitality sandwich course as minus 10!