Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Visitor

Claims of physical abuse against pupils on the rise

12:56 Friday 24 July 2009

Jane Watts’s 30-year teaching career was left in tatters after she was accused of hitting a five-year-old girl during a lesson at a Chorley school.

With teaching unions warning the number of claims of physical abuse against pupils is on the rise, the LEP investigates the impact on those inside the profession

“It was absolutely horrendous. I was warned that I might be handcuffed and put in a cell, I was fingerprinted, had my DNA taken and photographed.”

“I had been on the senior management team and had an unblemished record. I was terrified.”

Those are the words of 52-year-old Chorley teacher Jane Watts describing her horror as she was arrested at Leyland Police Station for allegedly assaulting a five-year-old girl in her class at Duke Street Primary School in September 2007.

She went on to face a police investigation but was never charged after the force dropped the case. Nonetheless, she was suspended and sacked for “gross misconduct”.

She was reinstated after an appeal but the school stood by its ruling of gross misconduct and she was sacked again in April this year after being too ill to return to the school due to the stress and anxiety it would have caused.

The mum-of-one, who lives in Astley Village, says: “The police said there was no case to answer but the school decided to take it into their own hands.”

“Imagine what it’s like to be called into the headteacher’s office for him to say you are suspended as you have assaulted a pupil – from then on your life deteriorates.”

“The day I was arrested was the worst day of my life. I have lived in Chorley for over 20 years but did not want to leave the house or go into town. I was aware that everyone was going to be talking about it.”

The reception class teacher says the complaint was made by a teaching assistant who claimed she slapped a five-year-old girl hard on the hand.

Mrs Watts says she has always denied the allegation, insisting she hit a table, not a child.

After having her appeal dismissed by the school, she has tried to clear her name by becoming the first teacher in the country to take a lie detector test to prove her innocence.

She hired renowned polygraph examiner Don Cargill – known for appearances on the Trisha Goddard show – and passed the test but education bosses dismissed the gesture.

She claims to have spent about £25,000 including legal advice in a bid to prove her innocence.

Andrew Kidd, headteacher at Duke Street Primary School, said: “There was a disciplinary hearing at school in March 2008 at which a member of staff was dismissed for assaulting a child, which was witnessed by another member of staff.”

“A subsequent appeal hearing decided that while the original finding of misconduct was correct, the decision to dismiss should be reduced to final written warning and at that point the member of staff was invited to return to work in July 2008.”

“However the staff member did not return to work and was dismissed by the governors in May 2009 on grounds of non-attendance.”

For the full feature, see Friday’s Lancashire Evening Post.