Friday, 28 March 2008


The probable explanation for the expression is that in medieval times workmen carried the tools or implements of their trade in a bag or sack. When an unsatisfactory worker was to be fired, on the last day on the job, his employer would hand him his pay and the sack containing his tools – he had got the SACK, he had been SACKED.

Whatever the derivation of the word might be, that is what happened to me this morning at 10:00. My solicitor called to give me the bad news. He had no details other than I had been dismissed for gross misconduct. I should receive confirmation and the details of the findings of the committee by post in a few days. By then, my solicitor will be in a better position to advise me on how to proceed.

An appeal ? Sounds like a good idea but where will that lead ? More of the same from the same board of governors and I am certain that the head teacher will be able to create more evidence.

Knowing that you did nothing gives you a rather unique perspective and I find myself feeling so confused and let down by my trust and belief in society. All along, no one has cared or bothered and now to fully appreciate the callous and malicious nature of people is beyond belief.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Judgement Day

“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares ? ... He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes !”
Billy Connelly (1942- )

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”
Dennis Wholey (1939- )

I awoke that morning with a sense of elation and pride. I was proud to have faced and overcome my perceived horrors of the hearing. I was optimistic that there might be a resolution - an end to the suffering.

It was confusing - whatever the outcome, it was not going to be what I wanted. Sacked or back to work at the same school - neither looked that attractive !

The rest of the morning, I wandered around expecting and dreading a telephone call - but none came. In the afternoon, I called my friend at school. She had been keeping a vigilant eye on activities and she said that the committee had convened just before 12:00.

By late afternoon, I still had heard nothing and my friend later said that the committee had adjourned shortly after 15:00.

I was determined to enjoy the remainder of the day. It had been my daughter’s 18th birthday two days earlier. She had just returned from holiday, so we celebrated over a meal in a local restaurant.

Later, we toasted her future with a glass of champagne and managed to forget the pending outcome of the hearing.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Disciplinary Hearing

Judge Jeffreys - ‘The hanging judge’Judge George Jeffreys was born in 1648. Educated at Cambridge, he was appointed Solicitor General to the Duke of York and was knighted in 1677. He became recorder of London in 1678 and, by the time he was 33, he became Lord Chief Justice of England and a privy counsellor, later becoming Lord Chancellor. In 1683, he became Baron Jeffreys of Wem.

He became known as the ‘Hanging Judge’ because of the punishments he had given to the supporters of the Duke of Monmouth as a result of a failed rebellion.

In 1685, Judge Jeffreys came to Dorchester and lodged at 6, High West Street, Dorchester, (now the restaurant, Judge Jeffreys). The Bloody Assizes were held in the Oak Room (now a Tea Room) of the Antelope Hotel on the 5th day of September in that year. Judge Jeffreys is said to have a secret passage from his lodgings to the Oak Room.

In total seventy-four people were executed, one hundred and seventy five were transported and twenty nine were pardoned. Executions were carried out in towns and villages close to Dorchester.

In 1688 when James II fled the country, Judge Jeffreys was placed in the Tower of London, where he died, aged 44, as the result of kidney disease.

“Just take a seat !”The first electrocution in history was a disaster. The condemned man, axe murderer William Kemmler, lived through the first round of shocks. His executioners at Auburn prison in upstate New York had to do it all over again as the stink of Kemmler’s burning flesh filled the death house. “They would have done better with an axe.” Westinghouse commented.

I had not slept well; the usual nightmare of judges and court settings. My mind again was struggling to cope with what was going to be another ordeal. Exactly 6 months had now elapsed since the date of the allegation. There was little expectation of a fair hearing but I hoped that the skills of my barrister, who I had not yet met nor even spoken with, might produce a miracle.

The venue for the hearing was a local educational conference centre and was due to commence at 16:00. My barrister had arranged to meet me there at 14:30 to prepare.

My partner and I arrived at the same moment as my barrister. She was lovely and her demeanour of professionalism gave me a new found sense of courage to face what was now ahead.

We spent the next few hours discussing the details of my case and she outlined the format of her presentation of what I might expect.

My witnesses arrived at about 15:30 and she spent a while briefing them about their involvement and presentation.

The actual meeting started some 30 minutes late as my barrister had concerns about the members of the disciplinary committee but her request for a new committee was denied.

So, at about 16:30, we were led into the actual hearing to meet the various representatives of the LEA / governors :

After initial introductions and an explanation by the LEA HR representative about the format of the hearing, the head teacher read his report.

Prior to reading his conclusions, his witnesses appeared one at a time and they read their statements. The governors / LEA and my barrister then cross-examined each witness.

During this period there were several adjournments when the head teacher and his LEA HR support withdrew to discuss points that had been raised / queried by my barrister.

The head teacher then delivered his damning conclusions.

By the time the head teacher had finished his presentation and there were no more questions it was almost 20:00.

My barrister then introduced me and I was asked to relate my recollection of events. I was surprised to find that I spoke so freely and openly without interruption. It was much like my interview with the police – I told the truth and presented as full an account of what had happened as I was able.

I was then questioned by the chair of the disciplinary committee and the LEA representative. My head teacher attempted to make some derogatory remarks and asked some leading questions. I found that I was able to deal with the situation well and responded from a position of strength.

My witnesses then appeared before the assembly and made their presentations. As before, they were questioned at some length.

The head teacher then made his closing comments – essentially repeating that I was guilty of gross misconduct.

My barrister’s closing statement was such a contrast. It was well considered and pulled all of the known facts into a concise and cohesive argument.

By now it had gone 21:15 and the disciplinary committee said that the meeting would be adjourned until the following day. They said that they would deliberate the presentations and that a decision would be communicated to me via my solicitor.

I felt that I had given my best and I knew that I had been represented by the finest legal support possible.

So we walked out into the night, gave our barrister a big, heartfelt hug and our deepest thanks and went home with a sense of optimism.

The hearing had not been the nightmare ordeal that I had expected. No one lost their temper, although one of the head teacher’s witnesses did look very distressed even from the start.

Advice ? You must have a good legal representative – my confidence came from trust and faith in my barrister. It was very reassuring to have my partner with me ... he was not allowed to speak nor intervene on my behalf and he sat writing notes.

The rules for who may accompany you are well documented. Essentially you are allowed one representative – there was no problem expressed about my partner attending but I took the precaution of getting a letter from my doctor that stated my partner should be there on medical grounds due to my mental state.

Remember too that you can request an adjournment at any time.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Dress Rehearsal

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

“The truth needs so little rehearsal.”
Barbara Kingsolver (1955- )

The eve of the hearing has arrived. After some 6 months, I have accumulated a box file of paperwork and a lever arch folder crammed with neatly organized correspondence, statements and other reference material.

I have lived with it all, most I have written myself and most I now have forgotten.

Today, I look at it - there is too much ... like staring at a hedgerow from a high speed car, it all blurs and blends into a confusion of colour. Tomorrow it has to all become crystal clear, sharp and memorable.

I have not yet met my barrister and I wonder how much depth of knowledge that she has of my case and associated facts and details.

It is up to you but it is much like a revision process - a dress rehearsal. You will be asked questions and your responses need to be fluent, concise and accurate.

Everything is in your statement, so read it, noting any important points. Try to replay it all in your mind. Then scan all of your paperwork. Use ‘PostIt’ notes against anything that you might want to reference whilst taking notes of any questions that you would like your representative to address.

(The hearing will be an ordeal, so pamper yourself and have an early night - do not worry - my barrister was competent and able, as will be your representative !)

The head teacher professes to be an aspiring actor and says "In my spare time I tread the boards at Chorley Little Theatre."

His idea of a dress rehearsal was more akin to that involved with a theatrical production. He was observed entering my classroom with the two hostile witnesses after school where they discussed the format of the hearing and what would be said. Later they were seen around the scene of the ‘crime’ - the table, where they tried to reach over and smack one another.

I question whether such behaviour is in the best interests of impartiality and the desire to determine the ‘truth’ but remember it really no longer matters and no one cares anyway !

(I ponder whether the two witnesses were provided with a script !)

Friday, 14 March 2008

Einige Zitate

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.”

“As soon as by one’s own propaganda even a glimpse of right on the other side is admitted, the cause for doubting one’s own right is laid.”

“Great liars are also great magicians.”

“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.”

“Humanitarianism is the expression of stupidity and cowardice.”

“I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.”

“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”

“It is not truth that matters but victory.”

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

“Only force rules. Force is the first law.”

“Our teachers were absolute tyrants. They had no sympathy with youth; their one object was to stuff our brains and turn us into erudite apes like themselves. If any pupil showed the slightest trace of originality, they persecuted him relentlessly, and the only model pupils whom I have ever got to know have all been failures in after-life.”

“Sooner will a camel pass through a needle’s eye than a great man be ‘discovered’ by an election.”

“Strength lies not in defence but in attack.”

“Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.”

“The art of leadership... consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.”

“The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.”

“The day of individual happiness has passed.”

“The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of flowing passion but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others.”

“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.”

“The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.”

“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”

“The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”

“Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”

“Universal education is the most corroding and disintegrating poison that liberalism has ever invented for its own destruction.”

“What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”

“When an opponent declares, “I will not come over to your side”, I calmly say, “Your child belongs to us already... What are you ? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.””

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

The doctrine and ethos of Nazism is present in our lives in Britain. Once again we are surrounded by ‘whistleblowers’ whose actions are encouraged by the state. The denial of social and moral accountability permits the ‘bullies’ free reign.

No more so at my school where it is dangerous to say anything. Your words and actions are distorted and reported.

Thursday, 13 March 2008


Blue Fairy :Now remember Pinocchio, be a good boy and always let your conscience be your guide.
Blue Fairy :A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

Why do people lie ? In my case, two colleagues are now clearly lying. At first, I believed that they had made a genuine error of judgement and incorrectly interpreted events.

Now they are lying, their versions, with every telling, continue to change and new evidence and observations have been added - their lies get bigger. I suppose that they have no choice - when you start lying there can be no turning back - no matter the consequences.

Up until this mess, I had an implicit trust and faith in people. Today, I have a different opinion and it is sad to know that I doubt everyone’s motives ... no longer am I able to be as open and confident in my conversation.

It is pity that we are not more like Pinocchio ... lies are hard to recognize and even more difficult to defeat.

Types of Lie
Lies can be categorized in many different ways but a widely held view is that there are four types of lie :
  • Pro-social - Lying to help someone else.
  • Self-enhancement - Lying to make yourself look better whilst not hurting another.
  • Selfish - Lying to personally benefit at the expense of another.
  • Anti-social - Lying to deliberately damage another.
Simple Signs of Lying
The type of lie, and whether it is in keeping with the liar’s character, dictates how apparent the signs of lying are. Occasionally they are extremely obvious, especially when the liar is feeling guilty.

Obvious signs include :
  • Over denial - Repeating protests of innocence.
  • Stuttering - Stumbling over words without natural fluency.
  • Hand Wringing - Fiddling, rubbing, picking and playing with the fingers and hands while talking.
  • Eye Contact - Unwillingness to make or never breaking it.
The majority of people intending to tell a lie fabricate their story long beforehand and become comfortable with it and so rarely get caught out easily. Equally, many of the signs indicated may also simply be signs of nerves due to shyness or discomfort with a new situation.

Subtle Signs of Lying
There are of course more subtle signs which most people miss and which can affect even word perfect liars. These include :
  • Over formal speech - Use of long words, painfully correct grammar and the full forms of words or phrases that would normally be shortened, suggesting a scripted speech rather than natural conversation.
  • Very few gestures and no pointing - As physical movement illustrating something being described are a quite common and natural activity.
  • Justification - Attempting to justify every detail with lengthy explanations
  • Disparity - Mismatch between tone of voice and expression.
People who are used to detecting lies develop an instinct towards the more obscure signs, perhaps without even consciously noticing them. Most people, however, have a great deal of difficulty working out when someone is telling the truth. Which is why there are so many attempts to make a foolproof machine for catching lies.

I have pondered the value in taking a polygraph test. There are some staggering claims about their accuracy and reliability. I enquired about costs; there are three specialist organizations that will visit your home, including one that undertakes testing on behalf of Trisha Goddard’s Channel 5 Television programme - total cost of about £500.00. Yet would anyone be prepared to accept the validity of these tests ? Ideally I and the two hostile witnesses would have to be tested and that is not going to happen !


“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Life Of Brian

Brian:What will they do to me ?
Ben the Prisoner:Oh you’ll probably get away with crucifixion.
Ben the Prisoner:Yeah, first offence.

Brian:Thank God you’ve come, Reg.
Reg:Well, I think I should point out first, Brian, in all fairness, we are not, in fact, the rescue committee. However, I have been asked to read the following prepared statement on behalf of the movement. “We the People’s Front of Judea, brackets, officials, end brackets, do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom.”
Brian:What ?
Reg:“Your death will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parent land from the hands of the Roman imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes and hermaphrodites. Signed, on behalf of the P. F. J., etc.” And I’d just like to add, on a personal note, my own admiration, for what you’re doing for us, Brian, on what must be, after all, for you a very difficult time.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Tools Of The Trade

“We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire...give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

As already mentioned, it will be necessary for you to produce much of your written documentation in Microsoft Word format and any pictures in JPEG. The benefit is that you can then readily e-mail your case files to your representative.

I use Microsoft Word for word-processing but is a very good alternative; it is a full office suite including spreadsheet, drawing and database support and best of all it is free.

For basic image processing / conversion, I can thoroughly recommend IrfanView. IrfanView has a wide range of features including rotation, cropping and resizing. It is not a paint package.

You will receive letters and other non-electronic documents. You must preserve / file the originals but it can be useful to convert these into Word documents. TopOCR is an optical character recognition processor. Essentially, you provide TopOCR with a picture of a document and it then converts it into text that you can edit.

I used a flatbed scanner but TopOCR works with any source and that might be from a digital camera or even your mobile phone.

Microsoft Word
Create and share great-looking documents by combining a comprehensive set of writing tools with an easy-to-use interface. is a multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute.

IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative freeware (for non-commercial use) graphic viewer for Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista.

TopOCR, Version 3.1. The latest release is completely free to end-users. TopOCR makes it easy to use your digital camera or smartphone as a mobile scanner to capture and OCR documents.

I have only investigated Windows based software - so apologies to Apple MAC users.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Ethos - I Found It !

Ethos : (n.) The character, sentiment, or disposition of a community or people, considered as a natural endowment; the spirit which actuates manners and customs; also, the characteristic tone or genius of an institution or social organization.

[Webster 1913 Suppl.]

In early November 2004, I and two colleagues were told by the head teacher that we had been awarded UPS3 – (a pay award – Upper Pay Spine 3). He told us that our salaries would be amended accordingly and that an adjustment would be made as the award was backdated to September.

This UPS3 was in line with government and county policy. Teachers in other Lancashire schools had already received their awards as a natural progression and without the need to produce any additional performance related evidence.

Two weeks later, the head teacher informed the three of us collectively that, as he had been absent during the preceding school year and had not been involved with performance management, he could not grant the pay award without written evidence. He made no apology for this and tried to convince us that it was in line with LEA policy.

The head teacher led us to believe that written evidence was needed to comply with his policy and that upon submission of our work that the UPS3 would be approved.

We duly produced reports but were later told that our work was not satisfactory and the head teacher said that we would not receive UPS3 awards.

One member of staff, following a discussion with the chair of governors, was granted her UPS3 – whilst I and my colleague had to contact our respective unions to formally appeal against his judgement.

Whilst waiting for union intervention, I decided that it might be more straightforward to ask the head teacher what had been wrong with the report that I had submitted. His behaviour at this meeting was aggressive and very personal – not professional by a long shot ! He lost his temper and shouted at me. (He is one of those people – prior to him erupting, his neck goes red then his face !) He told me in no uncertain terms that I had no ethos and that other teachers were more supportive of him and the school.

I have learnt to keep calm at these meetings with him – there is no point in me losing my temper … on this occasion, I could not tolerate his attitude and words and was forced to close the conversation and leave.

My UPS3 appeal was heard on 18 May 2005, some 6 months later ! At this meeting were the head teacher, chair of governors, another governor, an LEA representative and my union representative.

I made my presentation to those present. This met with an aggressive response from the chair of governors who was more interested in why my report had been submitted late. (I had not been told by anyone that it should have been submitted in the first place.)

The head teacher then responded to my presentation. He made no reference to my presentation nor the paperwork that I had submitted. He had his own written agenda and proceeded with a character assassination, saying :
  • I am not a team player.
  • I never support him.
  • I don’t take advice.
  • I am a law unto myself based on the fact that I had disagreed with his reasons for wanting the reception children to attend morning assemblies.
  • I take ad hoc coffee breaks.
  • I would do a lot better if I watched my colleagues in action.
  • I have no ethos.
When I tried to comment during his ranting, I was told by the chair of governors that if I continued to interrupt that I would have to leave the meeting.

After waiting in a room for 30 minutes, the LEA representative informed me that my appeal had failed for reasons never explained. (My union representative had not helped / supported nor intervened at any time – she had been as shocked as me but did nothing !)

Following this sham, my colleague withdrew her appeal, which was due to be heard later the same week, through fear of similar treatment / outcome.

I never succeeded in getting my UPS3 award but, later, I did find Ethos – it was in the china section of Dawsons Department Store in Clitheroe … who would have thought it ! … my partner even got me a poster to prove it !

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Good Times - Bad Times

“Mrs. Jane Jameson, daughter of long-time Royal Preston Hospital patient, Tony Woods, narrowly missed joining her father today when her vehicle burst into flames. Eye witnesses were disappointed that the conflagration failed to engulf the petrol tank. The owner of an adjacent car thanked the fire brigade for cleaning his car.”

Lancashire Evening Post 16 April 2007
In every way, 2007 has been the worst year of my life. It began with every woman’s nightmare – I had a cancer scare in January; a routine test had found ‘abnormal cells’.

In February, I underwent minor surgery. My operation did not go exactly as expected … I collapsed in the corridor on the day of my discharge having had to stay the night. I suffered from phlebitis (inflammation of the veins) triggered by the anaesthetic.

In late February, my father of 86, fell and broke his hip. He was admitted to the Royal Preston Hospital where he underwent surgery for hip replacement.

Whilst in hospital, my father contracted Clostridium Difficile. The family rallied round and we established a weekly schedule of visiting times.

It was during one of my visits that my beloved Vauxhall Vectra caught fire in the visitors car park adjacent to the Accident and Emergency Department. At first, the ignition would not turn off. I rang my partner for advice and whilst on my mobile, black smoke started to engulf the front of my car. He told me to ring the fire brigade but by that time, the smoke had triggered the hospital fire alarms and help had been summoned.

My car was a write-off and was towed away unceremoniously. Inside the hospital there was a fevered excitement – for safety, the A & E Department had been evacuated.

Upstairs, on my father’s ward, the excitement continued and the story had grown – according to many ‘witnesses’, my humble Vauxhall was now the flagship of the BMW range … why does that happen ?

The treatment and care that my father received was far from what anyone would have expected. It is odd to notice the same telltale signs of rigid adherence to policies / procedures that resulted in little awareness of the needs of the patient. None of the doctors seemed to have a ‘full-picture’ of his treatment, condition or prognosis … worse, there were no signs that they cared.

Following a lengthy meeting with PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison Service), the quality of the nursing care improved dramatically.

Sadly, my father died on 29 May 2007.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Classroom Stories

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

“Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Slowly and inextricably, I am coming to terms with what I am about to lose – in truth it has already been taken – that happened 6 months ago and it now seems like a lifetime.

I have been a teacher for almost 30 years and I loved every day of my job. I always knew that I wanted to teach; even before I attended my first school. I consider myself to be a vocational teacher; many people these days work to live but, for me, I live to teach and I had expected to continue teaching until age got the better of me and that retirement would move me on to other opportunities and challenges.

Teaching these days is not easy and all of us need greater support and help with the ever changing demands and requirements of the system; especially the increasing levels of bureaucracy.

In today’s schools, the emphasis is on constant monitoring, observation and attainment records; not solely children but also teachers. In this pressurized environment, it is vital for all teachers to know that they can rely on their head teacher for support (there is no one else !). In return, the head teacher must engender a sense of respect, understanding and appreciation of one another in order to maintain a team of motivated, enthusiastic and confident staff. The head teacher must have the ability to listen and be pro-active in providing support and this role demands someone who is self confident and able to make decisions based on rational judgement and possibly devolving decisions to other staff thereby fostering a sense of trust. Few people have these qualities; I respect the fact that being a head teacher can be onerous and this is reflected in the number of head teacher vacancies.

For me, my children come first and I love to interact with them as they are all such unique and precious individuals and they have such a special and fresh perception of the world.

I have intended to collate a book of the many stories that children have shared with me over the years. One special memory that I recollect was related to me a few years ago by a boy whose grandmother had recently died. Death was very much on his mind and what it meant and he approached me and asked “Do you get poorly when you go to heaven ?” and I replied “No, no one gets ill in heaven.” He looked at me and smiled saying “Oh, that’s good, it’s a long way to heaven and I get travel sick !”

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Time Bandits

“There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at and who steals what is most precious to men; time.”

Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Since my suspension on 27 September 2007, 161 days, 23 weeks, almost 6 months have now elapsed.

Case Milestones :
26 Sep 2007Alleged incident
27 Sep 2007Suspended11
31 Oct 2007Police arrest3534
19 Nov 2007CPS - Case dropped5419
13 Dec 2007Preliminary meeting7824
26 Mar 2008Disciplinary hearing182104

The LEA document Handling Allegations of Abuse Against Staff states :

“Investigations should be completed within 15 days wherever possible.”

“It is recognised that there is a need for management, both at the school and Authority level, to provide some means of support to staff who are the subject of allegations of misconduct at work, or who have been suspended for alleged misconduct under the School Disciplinary Procedure. In such circumstances the member of staff involved may experience feelings of worry and depression; they may also feel isolated from their workplace and colleagues.”

“It is important that staff are made aware of what is happening in relation to the disciplinary investigation, as lack of information may also lead to further stress and ill health. In addition, it must be understood that the allegations may have placed the member of staff in a difficult situation in relation to his/her family.”

On 19 October, I was notified that the outcome of a ‘strategy meeting’ had concluded that the allegation was to be investigated by the police. Some 23 days had already elapsed and I was arrested 12 days later on 31 October. Another 19 days elapsed before the police informed me that the Crown Prosecution Service were not going to progress the case.

The following day, 20 November, the LEA informed me that the school intended to embark on a Disciplinary Hearing process and that I would be called to an initial meeting on the 13 December – some 78 days since the actual allegation.

The head teacher should have started his investigations and, in accordance with the ideals of the LEA’s procedures, this report should have been completed within 15 days; by 4 December.

From the date of the allegation to the point where the case was dropped by the CPS took 54 days – and it will have taken another 128 days before my Disciplinary Hearing.

It seems reasonable to expect meetings between multiple agencies, social services, police, school, LEA and ensuing police investigations, might take time. What seems incredulous and scandalous, is that it then takes a single agency, the school, 128 days (4.5 months) to then arrange a Disciplinary Hearing !

This protracted delay is not to your advantage - everyday is torture and it is remorseless in its effect. However, for your school and the LEA there are significant and strategic benefits gained by the deferral of a hearing.

Over 6 months, the situation at school will have stabilized and life will have returned to normal for staff, parents and children – you have become history and memories of you will be fading. If your case had been handled with greater urgency, the consequential effects of the outcome from your Disciplinary Hearing might have resulted in some profound effects and problems for the school.

It is easier for people to accept that you have been suspended – and, for them, it does look as though you are on ‘paid holiday’. Then they are not allowed to communicate with you and vice versa – so they will never know of your suffering.

For 6 months, the ‘system’ has wanted you to remain quiet and excluded for reasons nothing to do with the ‘investigative process’.

You remain passive and hopeful but in your heart you know that there can be and always has been one outcome – at best, you will never teach at your school again; at worst, you will never teach again.

The policies / procedures care nothing for you … and the people who are accountable / responsible do nothing … the ‘system’ is protecting itself; morality is not contained in the rule book. In the end, everyone will have ‘done their job’ and they can sleep easy knowing that they followed the rules !

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his many quotations have provided me with so much inspiration over these months - to believe in ourselves and to continue to struggle against such adversity.

“The secret of education is respecting the pupil.”

“As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, essayist and philosopher was born in 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and teaching for a brief time, Emerson entered the ministry. He was appointed to the Old Second Church in his native city but soon became an unwilling preacher. Unable in conscience to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper after the death of his 19 year old wife from tuberculosis, Emerson resigned his pastorate in 1831.

The following year, he sailed to Europe, visiting Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Carlyle, the Scottish born English writer, was famous for his explosive attacks on hypocrisy and materialism, his distrust of democracy and his highly romantic belief in the power of the individual. Emerson’s friendship with Carlyle was both lasting and significant; the insights of the British thinker helped Emerson formulate his own philosophy.

On his return to New England, Emerson became known for challenging traditional thought. In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. Known in the local literary circle as ‘The Sage of Concord’, Emerson became the chief spokesman for Transcendentalism, the American philosophic and literary movement. Centred in New England during the 19th century, Transcendentalism was a reaction against scientific rationalism.

Emerson’s first book, Nature (1836), is perhaps the best expression of his Transcendentalism, the belief that everything in our world, even a drop of dew, is a microcosm of the universe. His concept of the Over-Soul, a Supreme Mind that every man and woman share, allowed Transcendentalists to disregard external authority and to rely instead on direct experience. ‘Trust thyself’, Emerson’s motto, became the code of Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau and W. E. Channing. From 1842 to 1844, Emerson edited the Transcendentalist journal, The Dial.

Emerson wrote poetic prose, ordering his essays by recurring themes and images. His poetry is often called harsh and didactic. Among Emerson’s most well known works are Essays, First and Second Series (1841, 1844). The First Series includes Emerson’s famous essay, ‘Self-Reliance’, in which the writer instructs his listener to examine his relationship with Nature and God and to trust his own judgment above all others.

Emerson’s other volumes include Poems (1847), Representative Men, The Conduct of Life (1860) and English Traits (1865). His best known addresses are The American Scholar (1837) and The Divinity School Address which he delivered before the graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, shocking Boston’s conservative clergymen with his descriptions of the divinity of man and the humanity of Jesus.

Emerson’s philosophy is characterized by its reliance on intuition as the only way to comprehend reality and his concepts owe much to the works of Plotinus, Swedenborg and Böhme. A believer in the ‘divine sufficiency of the individual’, Emerson was a steady optimist. His refusal to grant the existence of evil caused Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, Sr., among others, to doubt his judgment. In spite of their scepticism, Emerson’s beliefs are of central importance in the history of American culture.

Ralph Waldo Emerson died of pneumonia in 1882.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Legal Support

“The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

If you have full confidence in your union representative then you are fortunate. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend seeking independent legal advice for your own reassurance.

Any allegation of abuse against you must be taken seriously, realize that it can lead to your loss of liberty, livelihood and contact with your own children.

In such cases, you will need one, two or all of the following types of legal support :
  • A criminal defence solicitor to represent you at a police interview, trial and any appeal.

  • A solicitor with specialist knowledge of Employment Law and with experience of the education system to deal with issues relating to suspension, investigative process, disciplinary hearing and its outcome.

  • A family solicitor to deal with any problems that might arise in relation to contact with your own children.
Finding a solicitor is not easy and personal recommendations are unlikely to help. Local solicitors will not have the range of skills / experience needed and you will have to explore wider a field. I found my solicitor after much reading and research on the Internet.

Prior to contacting a solicitor have as much of the background to your case available in a format suitable for e-mailing. Your documentation should be in Microsoft Word and any photographic / scanned information should be in JPEG format.

Most firms of solicitors will provide an introductory ‘free’ consultation - usually about 30 minutes. So before making your first telephone call, try to summarize your situation and apprehensions, as concisely as possible, on paper. During your initial conversation suggest e-mailing your documentation so that they are more able to consider your case. Suggest that you call again the following day to discuss the matter further and to obtain details of expected costs in handling your case.

There are many articles that describe the solicitor / client relationship; stressing the importance that they are under your instruction. Unless you have in-depth experience of the law, it is unlikely that you will be in a position to instruct a solicitor. You need a solicitor who is able to take the lead and be pro-active in their actions - in effect you need to be instructed in the ‘best’ course of action. More importantly, realize that you are recruiting a partner - someone who believes and understands you and someone who you can trust with your life.

Costs ? Solicitors fees are expensive - in relation to what ? - your life ? At the initial meeting / contact with your solicitor, you should be provided with a basic outline of their standard charges; hourly rates, telephone calls and letters. They should be able to provide an estimate of the total costs but this will be subject to change as your case progresses.

It is possible that you might be able to claim ‘Legal Aid’ for certain aspects of your case and your solicitor can advise you about your eligibility. It is also possible that some of your costs might be covered by your domestic insurance policies. For example, my house contents insurance has provision for covering legal costs in court cases involving my employer.

A good solicitor will encourage you to take responsibility for some aspects of your case, to keep you involved and to save money. There will be many reports to prepare and witness information to be collated - at times, it will be more effective for you to undertake this work.

In my case, I have had occasion to use the services of two firms of solicitors and my experience has been excellent. They both provided support beyond that expected and with care and understanding.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Paying The Price

Mr. Micawber : Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen, six; result, happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, ought and six; result, misery.

Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870),
David Copperfield, 1849

I remind you that is not a ‘paid holiday’ ... beyond the costs to my health, the destruction of so many aspects of my life and that of my family - paying the price is expensive ... an ‘investment’ that you will not recover !

Remember the nightmare ... even though you are suspended on full salary, the financial losses associated with a false allegation case can be substantial.

Through lack of union support, I have now incurred legal fees in excess of £2,000 and rising.

My partner’s business has been impacted. He is a freelance software developer who runs his own business. Last October, he was forced to rearrange scheduled meetings to support me through the period when I was arrested - the result was that he incurred costs of around £500 and lost two contracts. Since November, my partner has committed most of his time into looking after me and assisting in the preparation of the many reports in defence of my case. He later suffered depression and has not been able to work - incurring business losses to date of around £6,000.

I would estimate by the time of my hearing, 26 March, our total costs will be in excess of £10,000.

Beyond monetary costs; how do you put a price on the loss of Christmas / New Year, damage to health, sleepless nights and a life on hold ? This list of consequential losses is endless ...

What choice do you have ? None ... you must fight and be prepared for the addition of financial fears on top of everything else ... the nightmare gets worse !

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Lancashire LEA - Failure ?

Stressed teachers take half a million days off
By Joanna Corrigan Monday, 18 February 2008

Teachers took more than half a million days off work last year due to stress at a cost to the taxpayer of £84 million, figures indicate.

More than 200 teachers went off sick for the whole year after apparently cracking under the pressure of dealing with unruly pupils, the statistics show.

Ninety local education authorities supplied statistics after requests under the Freedom of Information Act. If the figures are repeated across all 172 LEAs they suggest that teachers took 546,000 days off due to stress.

Seven LEAs admitted losing more than 10,000 teaching days because of stress. The worst was Lancashire, which lost 16,098 teaching days, following by Shropshire on 14,552.

Teachers’ unions claim that staff are at breaking point because of government targets, badly-behaved pupils, long hours and low pay.

A spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “We must ensure the stresses are legitimate - not in pursuit of some fatuous target.”

The figures come as Gordon Brown is facing the prospect of the first national teachers’ strike for 20 years. The National Union of Teachers is balloting its members on a one-day strike over pay in April.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

My Head’s A Bully

A single bully in any promoted position within a school can cause enormous damage. They manipulate others, often unsuspecting senior managers who have full confidence in their judgement and do not question their trust as well as their subordinates who they can ‘ply with favours’ or manage by fear.

The bullies often tell blatant lies knowing they will be believed and that they will be supported by their managers regardless of the real facts. They will target the most competent and well liked subordinates as they are perceived by them to be a threat and need to be ‘kept down’.

The unsuspecting targets often do not even realize they are being bullied or that lies are being told to others. Initially they try hard to please the bully manager whose constant unwarranted criticism they accept but never understand.

The result is that they lose confidence. Their health suffers and the bully then uses negative impression management to destroy the reputation of the target to senior management. The management then is manipulated by the bully into increasing pressure on the target.

When this happens, the feeling of helplessness sets in. The target realizes they are being bullied but knows that they are isolated and vulnerable. If they raise a grievance then the bully, from their position of relative power, steps up the bullying hoping to further destroy their target then claim that their target has a ‘mental health problem’ so that they can claim that it is them that is being bullied rather than their target.

These bullies usually have either narcissistic or antisocial personality disorders.

These disorders allow the bullies to be seen as effective, charming and caring by senior managers and some of their subordinates but their true agenda is personal gain, dominance and control.

The result is a ‘hostile working environment’ where there are clear divisions and insecurity, with some staff being favoured and being ‘kept on side’ whilst others are targeted either individually or as a group.

Staff are often given vague instructions or are over controlled. Bullying can take many forms, too little work, too much work, being given responsibility without authority, nit picking, etc. (If it feels bad then it is probably bullying - trust your ‘gut feeling’ !)

People with these disorders have no conscience, tell lies with ease and skill, do not suffer from guilt from their wrongdoing and cannot empathize (though they can feign what they think are appropriate reactions in emotional situations).

They are very dangerous people (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - wolves in sheep’s clothing) and they often gain promotion in schools by a combination of being able to say with conviction at interview that they will do ‘what it takes to get the job done regardless of cost’ and by spreading negative information (privately of course) about their competition.

This all seems unbelievable, unfortunately it happens all too often. Some excellent reading includes - ‘Bully in Sight’, ‘Without Conscience’, ‘Where Ego’s Dare’ and ‘Nasty People’.

The most effective legislation is probably the Protection Against Harassment Act 1997 which makes LEA’s and Councils vicariously liable for stress and anxiety caused by bullying. The time limit for claims is 6 years. You do not need to leave your job and it does not matter if the bully is moved on or leaves. The employer has no defence simply by claiming that they have a ‘dignity at work’ policy in place. The precedent was set in 2006 when it was applied in an employment law situation.

Schools should be good places to work and there is no place for bullies amongst staff. Remember - “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men [or good women] do nothing”.

In bullying situations, there is the bully, the bullied and the bystanders. If the bystanders do nothing then they, by default, side with the bully as they effectively condone their actions.

Finally, even when unmasked, bullies will often continue to lie with conviction and contrive stories to get them out of their situation. Fortunately, they often suffer from poor memories and trip themselves up with their lies.

When called to account, though often still protected by HR and management who do not want the negative publicity of having supported a bully, the bully will feign illness to gain sympathy and divert attention.

A common trait with narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder sufferers is to look for pity - “Why does it always happen to me ?” “Why are my staff so incompetent ?”

When you realize that you or other good teachers are subject to bullying, the first thing to do is to read all that you can. Keep an accurate diary of events and file any memos, minutes and notes. Gather hard evidence and keep it at home until it is needed. Insist that any grievance is independent from the school to avoid a total ‘sham’ investigation.

Once you play your cards, ‘serial bullies’ will retaliate by distancing themselves, using others to do their dirty work.

For safety, assume that the bullies will be supported by their seniors and that they will have others lie on their behalf. Do not rely on a fair hearing or support from others as many are fearful that if they support you then they will be the next target.

Bullying is misunderstood - people think they know what it is but in reality few have a good understanding of the subject.

LEA’s and councils do not want staff to realize the extent of the problem.

In the end, the only people who gain from bullying are the bullies and other bullies within the management chain.

If you are being bullied and are forced into grievance procedures then you must be well prepared as there is often substantial bias in favour of the bully manager in internal grievance proceedings.

Neither management nor Human Resources (HR) are keen to find in favour of the complainant and will typically use a variety of tactics to intimidate or wear down the complainant all to avoid a precedent being set and opening the doors for litigation.

These tactics include :
  1. To delay proceedings so that the time limit for eligibility for taking your complaint to an Employment Tribunal is reached. (It must be initially lodged within 3 months of the last bullying incident.)

  2. HR can produce inaccurate records of meetings which you must challenge and correct which wears you down further and encourages you to lose heart.

  3. They fail to answer relevant questions even when lodged in writing. (Ignoring and trivializing are themselves both bullying tactics.)

  4. Bullying is a ‘pattern of unacceptable behaviour’. Each incident in isolation can be and often is trivialized - the focus must be kept on the grievance being a ‘pattern of unacceptable behaviour’ rather than focusing on individual incidents.

  5. Investigators are often not qualified to effectively investigate bullying - they should know to look for signs of a ‘hostile working environment’ - high staff turnover - high sickness - low morale from some of the staff - secrecy - a polarization of views from people being interviewed with some speaking very highly of the bully (those favoured by the bully and who like the status quo) while very few openly support the bullied. Investigators should but often do not take account of the employment status of those being interviewed - NQT’s, those on temporary contracts and those looking for a good report for future jobs are very scared to say anything against even the worst bully. Only the secure staff in safe positions who are not looking for anything from the bully (or management) and who have suffered themselves are likely to provide accurate information.

  6. Management often threaten Disciplinary Action on ‘trumped up’ charges to divert attention and increase stress further.

  7. They can change personnel during investigation to dilute rigor and avoid accountability when the wrong decisions are eventually reached.

  8. Probably the worst abuse is for them to ignore hard evidence which clearly demonstrates bullying and close the investigation without looking at substantial evidence they know to be available.

  9. They suggest that its simply a ‘personality clash’ or ‘a breakdown in relationships’ with ‘faults on both sides’.

  10. The bully will often lodge a counter claim that it is them that is being bullied. Experienced investigators know that counter claims actually strengthen the initial claim of the person being bullied. There are lots of other things they do - the bullies have often been through the procedures before and know how to abuse it making it even less effective. As regards claims by HR/management that there are ‘faults on both sides’ - simply point out that, like in child and domestic abuse where there is an imbalance in power, the abuser, when called to account often blames the abused and the result is a breakdown in relationships. There is only one person at fault. It’s the same with bullying. What I am saying is - be well prepared, look after yourself, know what to expect re your health as you will suffer symptoms of stress and by knowing what to expect it is less alarming when the symptoms appear, you will realise that the symptoms are a ‘normal reaction’ to bullying - keep records - keep reminding yourself or those you are supporting that you/they have done nothing to deserve the abuse received and assume that you will need to fight on and on to get justice. Read all you can.

  11. Finally - HR / management will encourage you to keep quiet about proceedings - this helps the bully - know your rights on what is confidential and what can be shared - don’t be intimidated - get things in writing and challenge unreasonable requests for secrecy - share what you can - keep your union involved (but don’t expect much support as often the bully is in the same union and the union gets scared about their own legal position. That said, the more experience the local reps get the more they will understand and be able to advise others in the future. - there is no advantage in falling out with the union, it simply plays into management’s hands.) Learn about bullying in the workplace and educate others. Like someone said earlier - Bullying has to become as socially unacceptable as drink driving, child abuse and all the discrimination that used to be widespread. For this to happen, everyone has to be able to recognize the difference between bullying and ‘strong management’. Strong management is effective but never involves bullying.