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TEACHERS COURT IN THE ACT (Part Two)

20-12-2007

The astonishing true story of a teacher who quit her job and who now has a stain on her career record because of an apparently innocent lunch at the seaside. As told by Laurence Inman.

The General Teaching Council for England.

Sounds very imposing, doesn’t it? A bit like the General Medical Council, which, as everyone knows, deals with doctors who mess up operations, or give wrong diagnoses, or arrange to have perfectly innocent parents locked up for years.

Because being a doctor can be a very serious business. People’s lives can depend on what you say and think.

Teachers want to be taken seriously as professionals as well. But they never will be while the GTCE is allowed to pose and pontificate and deliver its ‘judgements.’

Some cases which arrive on their desk are fairly serious, in terms of a teacher’s actions within a professional context: they might have an affair with a student, or beat one up, or fake some exam results.

Others are serious outside of school: no one wants their kids taught by a criminal, although it’s difficult to see what a case of drink-driving has to do with anyone else after the offender has been dragged through the proper courts.

A surprising number of cases are fabricated for purely malicious reasons. I don’t mean pupils making things up about teachers; they rarely have the nerve to carry it through.

No, I mean gangs of senior teachers who dream up a tissue of lies against a junior teacher, and who coerce ancillary staff and even parents to support them, for the most flimsy of reasons; for instance, the new teacher might have shown up long-standing inefficiencies and tried to change things for the better and so wobbled the already fragile structure of the Head’s personality.

It happens all the time.

The majority of cases, however, concern utterly trivial incidents. They generate piles of paperwork. They provide a steady and generous income for specialist lawyers, health and safety experts and various drones of the child-protection industry.

Here is an example, and not an extreme one. I left out the name of the ‘defendant’ because I don’t want to risk adding to her torment.

She took a class of thirty-one infant pupils on a trip to the seaside. These thirty-one pupils were accompanied by eight, yes, eight adults.

A few days before the trip she agreed an itinerary and full risk-assessment with somebody called a Visits Co-ordinator.

I’ll let Mr Murfitt, the ‘prosecutor’ at the GTCE, continue with the story.

‘On the day, she changed the itinerary. Lunch was not held at the education centre, but close to a steep incline where there were no borders or markers. She also allowed the children on to the beach when it had been agreed that this would not be permitted. To access the beach the children used steps that were potentially dangerous and which had not been risk assessed.’

The Head of the school held an ‘investigation.’ The teacher resigned.

Gloria Hyatt, chair of the committee, said: ‘Following training, she now shows insight into her failings on that day. It was an isolated incident which was not deliberate. She has shown remorse. She has a previous good history. There is no suggestion that there has been a repetition of such behaviour.’

No children were injured, upset or discomforted on the trip.

The teacher was given a reprimand for ‘unacceptable professional misconduct’ which will remain on the register.

So there you are. Small children cannot eat their sandwiches on a beach in the sunshine.

And it took two years to settle, because the GTCE won’t hear cases all at once. They hear them for two days at a time, often with gaps of many months in between.

Does anyone remember Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke ?

‘I got my head right now, Boss. Don’t make me dig that hole no more.’

To see Part One of Laurence Inman’s article, click here

And for the GTCE’s response, click here

Have you had any dealings with the GTCE?

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