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John Simkin

International School Toulouse - Injustice

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My name is Marie Carola Behrens, I was a former IST student, I graduated in 2005. I find the reasons for the dismissal of Mrs. Carlile and Mr. Jones-Nerzic completley ridiculous. I have also read on the education forum that other teachers were dismissed, and I can't help but ask myself why it happened, because it really does seem ridiculous. Mr. Jones Nerzic was my history teacher and even though I didn't get along with him that much and didn't actually have any affinities for him, he was still one of the best history teacher's I have ever had, he did all that was possible to help students get good grades and understand the lessons and make them lots of fun. He was so passionate about history and made his lessons so interessting, by using the education forum, IT and by making us reconstitute very important events in history and all that helped us learn our lessons well and get the good grades that we got for IB. Many students saw in him a mentor and he helped many students with their problems, for exampel my friend Justine King, He was the only teacher she could talk too and get angry at when it was not her day and he never shouted or scowled her for he outbursts in class, he was always comprehensive and tried to help whenever it was possible. As I mentioned, we did not "like" each other as such, but we had a mutual understanding and he still helped me get good grades for my extended essay and my internal essay and also for the history exams itself, because he made us practice how to write good essays and took time to correct them and tell us what we were doing wrong.

I find it unjust that he and Mrs. Carlile got dismissed for such ourageous reasons and I am disappointed at the board of directors for having dismissed them, because they had no reasons too. They made the wrong decision for the school and for those students that have IGCSE and IB exams. If the Board of Directors have children doing those exams, then they have put their children in a very difficult situation.

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I received a private communication from a member of the IST staff yesterday. They say they are in a difficult position. They sympathise with Richard and Tanya’s position. But they want to minimize the disruption to the students’ education. They are not ‘cowards’ but they are refusing to discuss the details of the case with the students. They have made it clear that the students have every right to complain but they ordered the students to remove their reinstate RJ-N ‘campaign t-shirts’. Were they right to do so?

When I was ten years old I was made a prefect at my junior school. We received a short talk about our important duties. I left school that day feeling very proud. When my dad got home I was quick to show him my prefect badge. I can still see it now. It was heart shaped with gold lettering on a green background. It also had a scratch on it that reminded me that I was not the first person to be given this badge.

My father’s reaction to this news surprised me. Instead of saying how proud he was, he gave me a talk on the dangers of being a person in authority. He warned me not to take advantage of this new power. He even went on to talk about the need to always question those in authority.

My father was killed a couple of months later. Over fifty years later it is the only conversation I can remember having with my father. Of course, I must have had other conversations with him, however, it is the only one I still remember. It is a conversation that shaped my personality. Over the years I have got into a lot of trouble questioning people in authority. I am sure that conversation with my dad over my prefect badge was a pivotal reason for this.

My father worked in a factory. I later discovered he was a trade union activist and a strong supporter of the Labour Party. He had also fought against fascism during the Second World War. He knew from bitter experience what people in authority are capable of. This is especially true of people who think that no one will have the courage to challenge their authority.

I left school at fifteen and got a job in a local factory. On the first day of work I joined the union. I listened carefully to the debates that took place on the factory floor. Veteran trade unionists explained the importance of solidarity with your fellow workers. Our union was able to achieve this and during the six years I worked in this factory, we never had to take industrial action.

My next job was as a manager of an off-licence owned by a multinational corporation. Soon afterwards I joined USDAW. A couple of years later the area manager arrived with a new contract for managers to sign. It included a clause that I was no longer allowed to be a member of a trade union. I was in a difficult position. I had very little contact with other managers. It was not like working in a factory where you could have union meetings in order to discover if all members are willing to stick together.

I was also recently married and the company provided me with a flat over the shop. If I was sacked, I would lose my job and my home. As always has been the case, Judith my wife, gave me her full support (her father was a London docker who had taught her the importance of union solidarity). Luckily for me, the vast majority of managers refused to sign these new non-union contracts, and I kept my job and my home.

In 1977 I trained to be a teacher. It did not take me long to discover that senior members of staff have little time for union rules. In my first school placement I was asked to cover for a member of staff who was absent. I knew that this went against the instructions of my union. I therefore went to see the deputy head who had sent me this message and told him I was refusing to cover the lesson. He then said that he was the NUT rep in the school and that I was mistaken about my rights to refuse to cover lessons. He then added that if I was unwilling to follow his instructions, I had to leave the school premises. However, after making a phone call to the university he discovered that I was right and I was allowed to stay in the school to finish my training. Hopefully, the other students at the school learnt an important lesson in the need to support union instructions.

After a couple of years in my first school I agreed to become the NUT rep. I was also put in charge of health and safety issues. In 1984 a member of the office staff, leaked me a story about asbestos being exposed in the boiler room and one of the toilets in the school used by the boys. The woman was in fact the wife of the caretaker who was being treated for mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity). It turned out that the previous caretaker had died from the same disease. He had been treated by the same doctor as the current caretaker and as a result suggested that asbestos in the school was the cause of this illness.

I called a staff association meeting and told them what I had discovered. They were deeply concerned by this story and demanded that I got the problem sorted out. I had a meeting with the head who appeared to be sympathetic and said he would investigate the claim. The following day I was approached by one of the deputy heads. He warned me that senior members were very upset with my attitude. He suggested that it was not a good idea to upset head teachers and that if I wanted a career in teaching I should change my behaviour. This was not the first “friendly chat” where I had been given advice about my attitude. The same man had told before about complaints from senior members of staff. On one occasion, after I had spoke in a staff meeting against what I considered to be unfair regulations imposed on Y12 and Y13 students, I was told I had to remember “whose side I was on”.

The deputy head was arguing that it was not in my self-interest to make a fuss about this health and safety issue. In the same way that it had not been in my self-interest to argue with the head in staff meetings about aspects of school policy. He was probably right. That is a view that most teachers tend to adopt. However, I had learnt from my experience as a trade unionist, that sometimes you have to make decisions that might not be in your own narrow self-interest. That sometimes you have to make decisions that you consider are in the interests of the wider community. Those slaves living in the Roman Empire must have asked themselves that question when they considered joining the Spartacus rebellion. We know from documentary sources that early trade unionists in the UK spent sometime thinking about this issue. No doubt French people living under Nazi occupation during the Second World War also asked themselves this question. Do we act out of narrow self-interest or do we risk our careers and even our lives in order to do something for the greater good?

Soon afterwards, the head arranged a meeting which was attended by the area union representative and a member of the Local Education Authority (LEA). It was suggested that the exposed asbestos would be removed during the summer holidays. I replied that I suspected that union members would not accept this deal and warned that some might even leak the story to the press. The NUT official told me that I should recommend the staff to accept the deal. He added that the local newspapers would never publish the stories about the asbestos danger. He was right, several members of staff had already leaked the story to the local paper and it had not appeared in the newspaper.

At the staff association meeting that was called to discuss this offer, a deputy head, not the same one who had spoken to me earlier lost his temper and in fact, seemed to come close to hitting me. He condemned the staff for making problems for the head and demanded that we accept the proposal that the troublesome asbestos should be removed during the summer holiday. As that was over six months away, I was surprised when the staff overwhelmingly voted in favour of the proposal. Teachers are not typical trade unionists. They are members for the undoubted benefits it provides. However, they are willing members of a hierarchal structure that insists on obedience to those above you. The deputy head losing his temper reminded them of their own school days. Their resistance to authority was causing them a great deal of stress. They were desperately looking for a way of removing this stress. They knew the deputy head would report back on how they voted. Their careers were at risk. It is fully understandable why they voted in the way that they did.

I left the school at the end of the summer term and therefore do not know if the LEA kept its promise. Nor do I know how many other members of staff, or children, died of mesothelioma.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes it is vitally important that people do not only consider “self-interest” when making what I consider to be moral decisions.

It is possible that some people who have posted on this thread have been motivated by self-interest. For example, some students want Richard and Tanya back because they want to be taught by them. Some parents might have posted on this thread because they are considering the future academic success of their children. However, there are other students who no longer attend the IST. I know that some of the parents who do not have children being taught by Richard and Tanya but are still playing an important role in them being reinstated. What is more, like me, Les Albiston has been threatening them with legal action as a result of what has been posted on this forum. It is impossible for me to say why they have made this decision. However, I suspect that they are taking this action for the same reasons that I am. That the sacking of Richard and Tanya is an obvious case of injustice. What is more, that their reinstatement will improve the quality of education being provided by the IST.

It is regrettable that no current members of staff at the IST have chosen to post a statement concerning the teaching abilities of Richard and Tanya. No doubt the main reason concerns the fear of what will happen to them if they did this. They are all aware that Les Albiston has a long memory and is determined to have revenge on all those who question his authority.

To the teacher whose dilemma is at the top of this posting: I understand you are in a difficult position and this has caused you to lose sleep. I expect that Richard and Tanya are not sleeping too well either.

I can understand why the student t-shirt demonstration caused you distress. It must have been very painful to be told that students believe you are "afraid" and are "turning a blind eye to injustice". For all I know, you might have been attending staff meetings where you have urged the staff to make some sort of demonstration in favour of Richard and Tanya being reinstated. If for example, if every member of staff signed a letter, calling on Les Albiston to reinstate the two teachers involved in the dispute, with the threat of the letter being made public, I am sure the IST Board would back down.

As I say, I have no idea what has been going on behind the scenes. However, what I do know, from your own confession, you ordered students to remove those t-shirts. I do not believe that the wearing of those t-shirts broke school rules. You therefore took the decision to make a public statement of support for Les Albiston over Richard and Tanya. It is a decision that I do not find morally acceptable.

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I have only recently got to know Richard, after I was invited to particpate in an E-Help conference in Stockholm, but on that brief acquaintance could immediately see what an innovative and inspirational teacher he is. His passion for his subject and drive to explore innovative new ways of teaching and learning is entirely infectious, and I returned from our conference inspired to improve my own professional skills. Richard made me feel instantly welcome to the group, his generosity and kindliness are a credit to him, and I wish him well for the future. Whatever he now decides to do, I am sure he will be immensely successful!

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I am so sorry to know of Richard's unfair dismissal and would like to urge IST's governing board to reinstate him and his other colleague. I met Richard in 2005 when I was an active member of the E-HELP project, as my institution , the CAP de Alcorcón (Madrid) was and is an active member. Needless to say Richard's impression was that of the highest efficency and proved extensively his talents both in History teaching incorporating IT and in coordinatiing the work of the Comenius 2.1 Project. As I see it there is NO way a professional like Richard can be dismissed on grounds of work inefficiency. Not only are his talents known to his students and student's parents, you have a list throughout this thread of international experts backing and acknowledging an outstanding expert, an efficient coordinator, a good worker whose only mistake may have been to voice injustice and unfairness. I sincerely hope there is a way back and the IST community reacts to these unfair events. All my support for Richard is his fight for rights.

Edited by Vicente López-Brea Fernández

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What has happened over the last few weeks is awful on many levels. There must be hundreds of people involved in this in one way or another who are feeling intensely angry, upset or both. I feel sorry for the parents and pupils affected, who have lost a dedicated and inspirational teacher (this does not seem in any dispute and the evidence to support this seems overwhelming). Lots of lives will have been profoundly affected by Richard's sacking. I feel sorry for the teachers working at the school: the IST cannot be a happy place at the moment, the climate must be pretty awful. Things might not have been perfect in the period prior to Richard's dismissal, but over the past 2-3 years, I think that all of us involved with the E-Help project felt that it was a pleasure and a privilege to work with such a fantastic school, and such nice people - this came out of the blue for us. The E-Help project had been very successful and fulfilling; this affair throws things very much up in the air and has soured and possibly jeopardised the project - can anyone see us having a 'business as usual' meeting at Toulouse in March? But all these things, important though they are, seem to me to pale into insignificance compared to the profound injustice of what has happened to Richard. To be sacked from an institution for which you have worked so hard, and with such success, must feel horrible, and make him feel very bitter. So I think that what is more important than anything is to work as hard and constructively as possible to secure an outcome which is as helpful as possible for Richard. I hope that we can act with the intelligence, effectiveness and integrity which Richard has demonstrated over the past several years, both as leader of the project, as a teacher at the IST, and as an eminently decent human being.

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Mr Simkin,

Your post above is admirable!

I just wanted to know if there was any chance of the Student Forum thread being put back up again?

Thanks,

Hannah

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Mr Simkin,

Your post above is admirable!

I just wanted to know if there was any chance of the Student Forum thread being put back up again?

Thanks,

Hannah

The decision was taken by Richard Jones-Nerzic. I am afraid it is out of my control.

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The decision was taken by Richard Jones-Nerzic. I am afraid it is out of my control.

Does this mean something insulting was said? It is a shame that there is no longer a forum for students to discuss ideas on, but I assume there must be a very good reason for taking it down indefinitely.

I haven't heard any news from IST recently - possibly the situation is calming down? We will probably need to wait until the upcoming court hearing before anything else happens.

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Apparently our views which we were expressing were insulting teachers. It happened right after the T-Shirt protest, and the students did indeed feel betrayed by the teachers so I guess the posts that appeared on the forum were to be expected. They weren't personally insulting any individual but they were critising the school and the teachers actions of being unfair, unjust and further cementing the idea that they didn't take the students seriously at all.

Stop me if I'm insulting anyone.

There is a forum which the students created to voice their opinions, but who knows how well that will go. (Students moderating students... who knows who we could insult next...)

Edited by Adrian Abbott

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Hi,

I don't really know where to start with this, and I guess that's why it's taken me this long to write on this forum. I am a mixture of shocked and horrified by the events at IST, most notably Mr Jones's dismissal, and he has my full support. But first things first...

I graduated from IST in 2006, but I was taught by Mr Jones for 6 years, from year 8 through to year 13. He was an excellent teacher who always encouraged me and helped me with my studies. I learnt a great deal and this has helped me through to university. What a student learns from Mr Jones will continue to help you well beyond exams, whether you realize it or not. Maybe not specific historical dates, but his preparation for exams and advice on how to study and make notes are skills that he helps his students develop and they are useful no matter what one goes on to do later in life. Mr Jones is also an incredible asset when it comes to university applications. He was very significant in helping me choose LSE and to get in and he helped me change to a dual degree once I got to London with his recommendation to the admissions office. He managed to make me adore history (so much that I added it to my degree here at LSE), and manages to make us see its importance outside the classroom. He makes it come alive, with his re-enacting of the Treaty of Versailles, the propaganda films he had us make to understand what went into the Nazi methods of coercing the people, and countless other role plays that we were involved in during my time at the LSE. He manages to make things rememberable (I still remember all the dates of the Treaties that led up to WWI and all the short term causes etc... they are permanately drilled in to my head!). Mr Jones devoted hours of his time to helping us with our coursework and extended essays, giving us advice and guidance throughout the summers and outside the classroom. He was devoted in a way few teachers are. He also had a way of making things interesting and stretch beyound the conventional methods of teaching. He taught me IT skills, notably with powerpoint, publisher and website building, which are fundamentally important to most of us, even if we are studying subjects like History and Government where most time is spent in the library. He encouraged us to be creative and imaginitive, to think outside the box, to not just regurgitate what we read and heard somewhere. He encouraged intellectual discussion and debate in the classroom and after. He also taught us a little about politics, and yes, maybe he helped sway some of us to the left, but was always fair and didn't try to impose a point of view on us. In addition to this, as I think I showed with my example of how influential he was in me picking the LSE, Mr Jones was a teacher that cared about his students and was able to provide them with advice about their studies and guidance that many of us, such as Hannah and myself, needed.

His dismissal makes no sense. I don't understand how the school can get rid of such an incredible teacher, such a gifted one and one that was clearly well liked within the school, as I think the student's t-shirt protest seems to demonstrate. And I can only begin to understand how scared and angry the students must feel, especially when they were asked to remove the t-shirts. Although not on the same lines, here at LSE I was asked to not participate in a protest against Guantanamo Bay, which involved me wearing a orange-jumpsuit and re-enacting the troubles there, because of the fact that I had to wear something which expressed my point of view in such a visual way, and I felt hurt and upset that someone was trying to reign me in, make me not express my opinions. Similarly, the students at IST must feel the same way... they must feel stifled. That being said, I do understand why, at the same time, the teachers asked them to remove the t-shirts, and why the teachers are not coming out in open support of Mr Jones on this forum. The students have to remember not to get dragged down in something, and they should use the appropriate channels to express their opinions and remember that they need to work, and as a group, the students need to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, protests such as the T-shirt one, or even my example here at LSE, make people uncomfortable and lead to one not being taken as seriously. It's not necessarily the way things should be, but it is true.

I guess this is going a bit off topic. More than anything, I wanted to leave a comment on this forum to say that I do stand firmly behind Mr Jones, as I do truely believe that his dismissal is unfair. I hope that he gets reinstated, and that this mess gets sorted out, because Mr Jones really is one of the best teachers IST has and ever will have.

Sincerly,

Simone Scully

LSE'09

IST'06

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His dismissal makes no sense. I don't understand how the school can get rid of such an incredible teacher, such a gifted one and one that was clearly well liked within the school, as I think the student's t-shirt protest seems to demonstrate. And I can only begin to understand how scared and angry the students must feel, especially when they were asked to remove the t-shirts. Although not on the same lines, here at LSE I was asked to not participate in a protest against Guantanamo Bay, which involved me wearing a orange-jumpsuit and re-enacting the troubles there, because of the fact that I had to wear something which expressed my point of view in such a visual way, and I felt hurt and upset that someone was trying to reign me in, make me not express my opinions. Similarly, the students at IST must feel the same way... they must feel stifled. That being said, I do understand why, at the same time, the teachers asked them to remove the t-shirts, and why the teachers are not coming out in open support of Mr Jones on this forum. The students have to remember not to get dragged down in something, and they should use the appropriate channels to express their opinions and remember that they need to work, and as a group, the students need to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, protests such as the T-shirt one, or even my example here at LSE, make people uncomfortable and lead to one not being taken as seriously. It's not necessarily the way things should be, but it is true.

The role of the IST teachers in this dispute is worth discussing. No doubt they are sympathetic to the plight of Richard Jones. However, this is of not much use if they then decide to remain silent about these matters. It could be argued that if they had the courage to unify against the dictatorial methods of Les Albiston, when he first arrived at the school, none of the teachers listed on the student’s t-shirts would have lost their jobs. Bullies like Albiston need to be tackled from the very beginning. All bullies are cowards at heart and are quick to back down when faced with a united front. However, bullies rely on people being cowards when tackled by an authoritarian figure. Individuals in institutions have very little power on their own. The only power they have is in joining forces with other individuals and showing a sense of solidarity with those being persecuted. That is what workers discovered in the 19th century and that is why they formed trade unions. They needed a great deal of bravery to do this as employers sacked the ring-leaders (in the United States they even had them lynched). I am afraid the members of staff at the IST have failed the test of solidarity. They chose cowardice over bravery. When they ordered those students who were willing to speak-up for Richard and Tanya to remove their t-shirts, they took their betrayal one step further.

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I hope that some teachers come and post on this forum. That way, we will be able to see both sides of the story. At the moment, the problem is only exacerbated by never getting to see what teachers actually think.

Reading this forum, teachers' input is greatly needed to provide an alternative point of view about the situation these actions have caused. I can't believe that some people are still hanging onto the claim that this isn't an important issue and that they can just ignore it and it will go away. Even if Mr. Albiston 'wins' in his vendetta...the issue won't go away as it will always have happened....

Thus far, I agree with Mr Simkin. But I am willing, as I am sure he is, to hear evidence to the contrary if indeed teachers have been remaining silent for better reasons than simply that they are afraid of reprimand or because, (if they're honest....), they don't particularly care...

I apologise if I am offending anyone. I am not trying to. I just want to urge teachers to say something rather than continue in this insufferable vein of submission.

I was at IST for so long, I felt I came to know many of the teachers in the context of the classroom - I can't imagine that any of them are without opinions on this issue. Please, say something, anything! I'm not the only person to have asked for some sort of comment.

Edited by Hannah Thompson

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TO BE QUIET OR NOT...

One group that can really help Richard in this conflict are you colleagues at IST. If this conflict is based on one copied paper and "rumours" some hidden personal reason(s) must be involved. Since we bystanders don't get any answers from IST we can only speculate in what's going on and that's not a very creative way of approaching this conflict.

Therefore it's so important that you colleagues of Richard stand up and demand an open investigation about what is going on. My suggestion would be to involve parents, students, colleagues and people from the board in this investigation.

It's first of all important for Richard and his family! He and his family deserves a reaction from you colleagues!

It's important for your work climate. I'm convinced, being a teacher myself, that you want to work at a school that's open for discussion and criticism when it's necessary and with a board that treats you and your opinions with respect.

It's important for your students. You are their role models and your behaviour in this conflict will give them a valuable lesson about life. Your action/reaction will be evaluated by these students and you have the power to teach them about our fellow man responsibilities.

It's important for the parents of the students. They have given you the responsibility of teaching the most valuable asset they have - their own children. They trust you to give them guide lines for life as well as knowledge. As I understand they want to have answers to all the questions that's surrounding this conflict and you can help them getting these answers.

It's important for Richards friends and partners in different projects. I have as you understand very little information about what's going on at IST. My reaction in this conflict comes from the privilege of knowing Richard and get to work with him, first at Virtual School and now in the e-help project. I personally want to understand what's going on at IST - an institution we have worked so beautifully together with. I have several times asked Les Albiston and the board of IST to please give some clues to why they sacked Richard. I don't get any answers at all... That's why I and my colleagues rely on the people that are the closest to Richard in his everday life at work to react. You colleagues at IST have to ask for an open investigation!

So please IST colleagues don't be quiet. I'm not asking you to go around with posters, to form demonstrations, to strike... I'm just asking you to react. Ask for an independent investigation that involves people from "both camps" and do it now before it's to late!

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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TO BE QUIET OR NOT...

One group that can really help Richard in this conflict are you colleagues at IST. If this conflict is based on one copied paper and "rumours" some hidden personal reason(s) must be involved. Since we bystanders don't get any answers from IST we can only speculate in what's going on and that's not a very creative way of approaching this conflict.

Therefore it's so important that you colleagues of Richard stand up and demand an open investigation about what is going on. My suggestion would be to involve parents, students, colleagues and people from the board in this investigation.

It's first of all important for Richard and his family! He and his family deserves a reaction from you colleagues!

It's important for your work climate. I'm convinced, being a teacher myself, that you want to work at a school that's open for discussion and criticism when it's necessary and with a board that treats you and your opinions with respect.

It's important for your students. You are their role models and your behaviour in this conflict will give them a valuable lesson about life. Your action/reaction will be evaluated by these students and you have the power to teach them about our fellow man responsibilities.

It's important for the parents of the students. They have given you the responsibility of teaching the most valuable asset they have - their own children. They trust you to give them guide lines for life as well as knowledge. As I understand they want to have answers to all the questions that's surrounding this conflict and you can help them getting these answers.

It's important for Richards friends and partners in different projects. I have as you understand very little information about what's going on at IST. My reaction in this conflict comes from the privilege of knowing Richard and get to work with him, first at Virtual School and now in the e-help project. I personally want to understand what's going on at IST - an institution we have worked so beautifully together with. I have several times asked Les Albiston and the board of IST to please give some clues to why they sacked Richard. I don't get any answers at all... That's why I and my colleagues rely on the people that are the closest to Richard in his everday life at work to react. You colleagues at IST have to ask for an open investigation!

So please IST colleagues don't be quiet. I'm not asking you to go around with posters, to form demonstrations, to strike... I'm just asking you to react. Ask for an independent investigation that involves people from "both camps" and do it now before it's to late!

Good post. Several of those IST members of staff, including Les Albiston, are also members of this forum. However, I don't expect any of them will have the courage to defend their position on this issue. Please find below a photograph of the IST staff when Les Albiston took over the running of the school. Those who have been removed are marked with a X.

post-7-1170177456_thumb.jpg

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