Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cleared: the British teacher fired for grabbing disruptive boy's arm

A teacher falsely accused of assaulting a disruptive pupil won his battle to clear his name yesterday. Despite 33 years of unblemished service, Ronnie Lane was sacked after the 15-year-old claimed the arts teacher had seized his arm and left him with scratch marks.

School chiefs rejected Mr Lane’s defence that he simply touched the boy’s arm while asking him to let go of a classmate’s painting. Yesterday an employment tribunal backed Mr Lane’s version of events, ruling he had been unfairly dismissed two years ago.

The 56-year-old produced evidence from a senior retired police officer indicating the boy’s injuries had been self inflicted. His victory follows the publication of shock figures that show one in four school staff has been the subject of false allegations by pupils.

Mr Lane was teaching art to a class of 20 GCSE students at West Derby School in Liverpool when the boy – identified only as Student J – started disrupting the lesson. When J grabbed another pupil’s coursework, Mr Lane told the tribunal he placed his hand on J’s wrist to take it, at which the teenager replied: ‘Get off or I’ll stab your eye out.’

He went to fetch another teacher, but a few minutes later J, who has special needs, alleged that scratch marks on his arm had been left by Mr Lane’s fingernails.

He was suspended, and following a number of hearings, including an unsuccessful appeal, sacked for gross misconduct. But later one pupil came forward to say he saw J injure himself. Giving evidence at the tribunal, the witness said: ‘He was digging his left hand into his right arm and applying pressure to his arm. ‘Mr Lane did touch him but it was just a limp-wristed gesture.’

Yesterday the tribunal upheld the married teacher’s claims for both unfair and wrongful dismissal. Its detailed findings will be published later, and a further hearing will be held to determine compensation.

Geoff Scargill, his Association of Teachers and Lecturers representative, said: ‘Ronnie is, of course, pleased with the judgment and is waiting to read the details.’

Andy Peart, head of legal and member services at the ATL, said: ‘We are delighted that Mr Lane has been vindicated. The employment tribunal judgment was a victory for justice. ‘The school treated Mr Lane grossly unfairly despite a 33-year unblemished record teaching there and have blighted his teaching career. We hope the compensation takes this into account when the employment tribunal meets this later this year.’

In a deprived area of Liverpool, West Derby School has been rated outstanding by Ofsted and praised for its ‘exceptional’ record in ensuring pupils exceed expectations. However it was struck by tragedy last year when a teacher was found dead at her home amid allegations she had been bullied by senior staff.

Janet McCabe, 51, died days after being told she faced suspension over allegations of giving students excessive help before a languages exam. An inquest could not ascertain the cause of her death.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has pledged to tackle bad behaviour blighting schools and driving teachers out of the profession. Measures to be introduced in September include scrapping ‘no touch rules’, for example when teaching pupils a musical instrument.

Pupils who make false allegations will face suspension, expulsion or even criminal proceedings.


Meat cleavers, bayonets and axes: The weapons seized from children as young as six at British schools

Hundreds of deadly weapons are being seized at schools each year from children as young as six, disturbing figures reveal. The shocking arsenal includes a meat cleaver, an axe, a bayonet and a knife found on a Year 1 primary school pupil.

Some 1,145 weapons were confiscated between 2006 and 2010 according to the results of a Freedom of Information request to Britain’s 52 police forces. Only half responded, meaning the official figure is likely to be more than 2,200 – an average of around 440 weapons seizures each year.

Education sources said this represents ‘the thin end of the wedge’ as most blades and other dangerous items are smuggled into schools without being detected. The figures were released in the same week that an official Government report exposed a doubling of violent incidents in schools to almost 1,000 in just a year.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Teachers are telling us on the quiet that pupils have taken control of schools. ‘For a lot of youngsters weapons and violence are becoming normal parts of their lives. ‘Teachers must be more ready to work together to tackle youngsters with weapons, exclude them from schools and call police.’ ‘It shows how badly the situation has deteriorated and why something must be done about it.

‘There are solutions like knife arches or searches but the fact these things are being found shows the vast majority of teachers are aware children could be carrying weapons. ‘These serious weapons youngsters are bringing into school shows how discipline in schools is deteriorating. ‘In general I believe schools are safe but with this sort of behaviour they can be very dangerous.’

The array of weapons includes a six-year-old child caught armed with a knife by Strathclyde Police in 2009. Police in Surrey seized a sword from a 19-year-old in 2010 and a one-foot long bayonet from a 15-year-old in 2008. The figures also show two 10-year-olds carrying knives in Lancashire, a 13-year-old with a meat cleaver in Strathclyde in 2009 and an eight year-old with a knife in Grampian. In Lincolnshire a 15-year-old was caught carrying an axe in 2009 and an 11-year-old was found with a snooker ball in a sock in 2008. A cosh was seized from a 15-year-old by West Mercia Police in 2009 and knives taken from two nine-year-olds in Leicestershire in 2006 and 2009. In Lancashire a 12-year-old was caught carrying a lock knife in 2006 and two 10-year-olds found with knives in 2008.

This week the Government issued new guidance to schools, which reveals that from September teachers can use force on disruptive children ending the 'no touch' policy. The guidance allows teachers to use reasonable force to eject unruly pupils, break up fights and search them for weapons Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said searching pupils at schools risks turning them into ‘airport style security’.

She said: ‘There is a danger that concentrating on the small minority of badly behaved pupils will bring about an unhelpful change in the schools' culture if airport style security measures and frisking are seen as normal. ‘Schools work hard to develop and maintain relationships of trust between pupils and teachers which heavy handed tactics, in response to a problem which is confined to the minority, may not always be the best solution and are more likely to escalate rather than defuse potentially difficult situations.’

Katharine Birbalsingh, the deputy head dismissed after speaking out about pupils’ behaviour at last year’s Tory conference, said the reinstatement of teachers’ powers would help tackle the problem but it would ‘take years’ to replace the authority that had been eroded.

Strathclyde Police seized the most weapons, 373, followed by Kent Police with 125, Lancashire Constabulary 81 and Leicestershire Police 80 Schools in Thames Valley Police area suffered the most crimes - 2,943 - followed by Kent Police with 2,081. Strathclyde Police also made 199 drugs seizures ahead of Durham Constabulary, 158, Humberside, 105, and Surrey, 99.

The DfE also revealed that nearly half a million children play truant for the equivalent of one whole month every school year. Some 430,000 of England’s six million pupils aged five to 16 skip more than 15 per cent of their lessons, while 184,000 miss 20 per cent - the level defined as ‘persistently absent’.

In an effort to tackle the worsening truancy rates the DfE yesterday reduced this level to 15 per cent and will name and shame schools to force head teachers to address the problem.

Charlie Taylor, the Coalition’s behaviour tsar, said: ‘Over time these pupils are lost to the system and can fall into anti-social behaviour and crime.’


Half of Australian high school students don't know they live in a democracy, survey finds

Since Australia is in fact a Constitutional Monarchy and the Royal family get constant coverage in the Australian press, this might not be quite as bad as it seems

HIGH school students will be taught the Australian system of government after a survey revealed more than half have no idea they live in a democracy - or even know what it means. This is despite students learning about our political structure at primary school in Year 6.

The AusCivics program, developed by the Constitution Education Fund Australia and endorsed by the federal and state governments, will be rolled out after the school holidays.

"The Australian Electoral Commission has found that half of young Australians don't know that they live in a democracy or what it actually means," the fund's executive director Kerry Jones said. "Children are taught in primary school but then half of them forget everything they've learned by the time they are 16."

The program has been developed by Ms Jones, a prominent monarchist, with author Thomas Keneally and former New South Wales premier Barrie Unsworth.

Ms Jones said she was disappointed to learn a conference for members of the radical Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba last weekend repeated its rejection of democracy, calling for Muslims to boycott elections and embrace Sharia law. "That's not the Australian way," she said.

Yet Ms Jones said it was not only radicals that threatened democracy. "There is a lack of engagement among Australians and this is putting our democracy under threat," she said.

"For the last election, 1.4 million Australians, mostly young people, didn't bother to enrol. More than 700,000 Australians voted informally."

The program includes a short film written by Keneally that encourages young Australians to be politically engaged. It features well-known Aussies including Ian Thorpe, Steve Waugh and Georgie Parker. Students will also be encouraged to see the award-winning film Broken Hill.

Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the government supported the program as a way to remind young people of the "value of living in a democratic and free country". "The Australian way of life includes fairness, tolerance, respect for parliamentary traditions, recognition of the importance of the right to vote and a willingness to be part of a community," he said.


No comments: