- St Duthus School website
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A teacher has been cleared of accusations that she mistreated a pupil at a Highland school.
Lesley Cooper was alleged to have called the boy at St Duthus School in Tain a “puppy”, whistled at him and told him to “sit”.
A General Teaching Council for Scotland panel said three pupil support assistants had “colluded in fabricating a false complaint” against Ms Cooper. A temporary restriction order on the teacher has been removed.
Highland Council-run St Duthus School caters or pupils with severe, complex and profound additional support needs.
‘Tense’ atmosphere A hearing held into the allegations against Ms Cooper heard claims that she had been frustrated by the behaviour of the boy.
It was alleged the teacher repeatedly acted in an inappropriate manner and used excessive force. It was allegedly that she told the pupil: “You’re going to be my puppy”. The panel heard evidence from teaching staff, including the head teacher, and Vivienne Fraser, Fiona Smith and Kirsty Bonthrone, the pupil support assistants (PSAs) who made the complaint.
The PSAs claimed that their input on handling pupils would be overruled leading to the atmosphere between them and teaching staff becoming “tense”.
In a newly-released outcome following the hearing, the panel sai d it rejected the evidence of the PSAs about the alleged conduct of Ms Cooper.
The panel said: “Far from demonstrating that a teacher had acted deplorably in a relation to a young pupil with additional support needs, the panel found that the evidence showed that a group of PSAs mounted a sustained campaign of harassment and vilification against the teaching staff at the school to the extent that it caused the suspension of the Head Teacher and the respondent by Highland Council. The panel heard evidence that members of the core group of PSAs were responsible for undermining the teaching plans and instructions of the teachers and that this extended more recently to supply teachers.” SOURCE
TEACHER VILIFIED 7 July 2016
A teacher accused of treating a pupil like a dog has been cleared by the teaching authority.
The General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) said there had been a “campaign of harassment and vilification” against teaching staff by three pupil support assistants (PSAs).
After a three-day hearing, the GTCS ruled there was no evidence to support the claims she had acted inappropriately and used excessive force against a pupil.
Ms Cooper had been accused of referring to a boy as a puppy, whistling at him and telling him to “sit”.She was also accused of pulling the boy, grabbing him by his clothing and shaking him
The panel ruled the three PSAs who claimed to have witnessed the incident had fabricated the story.
In its report, the panel said: “The panel found that the three PSAs had colluded in fabricating a false complaint against the respondent and rejected their evidence about the alleged conduct.”
The panel heard evidence from Vivienne Fraser, Fiona Smith and Kirsty Bonthrone, the PSAs who made the complaint, as well as the head teacher Joep Eggermont, who had been suspended after allegations by the same PSAs. Supporting evidence was also given by teachers Mr Eggermont, Janice MacLennan, Yvonne Jackson, other members of staff and a parent.
The panel concluded: “Far from demonstrating that a teacher had acted deplorably in a relation to a young pupil with additional support needs, the panel found that the evidence showed that a group of PSAs mounted a sustained campaign of harassment and vilification against the teaching staff at the school to the extent that it caused the suspension of the head teacher and the respondent by Highland Council.”
The panel said it had heard two different accounts, one from the PSAs and another from four registered teachers at the school, the head teacher and Ms Cooper.
Ms Cooper’s position had been that she had used simple commands to deal with a child with challenging behaviour but had never referred to him as a puppy or whistled at him.
The GTCS said: “The allegations set out in the complaint raised very serious concerns which, if proved, would be expected to have very significant consequences for the respondent’s registration as a teacher. Not only that, but the alleged conduct raised very serious child protection concerns. The panel accepted the evidence of Mr Eggermont, Mrs MacLellan and Mrs Jackson that the respondent was a very professional and caring teacher. The panel rejected the evidence of Ms Bonthrone, Mrs Fraser and Mrs Smith as inherently lacking credibility. It seemed clear to the panel that the three PSAs came to the hearing with the intent to further damage the character and reputation of the respondent rather than to give genuine and objective evidence of events which had actually occurred and which they had witnessed.”
The panel noted while it was not known if Highland Council had taken steps to address concerns at the school, its own role was only to investigate the complaint about Ms Cooper. The GTCS panel said it had no power to cause further investigation into the circumstances surrounding the complaint.
- Vivienne Fraser
- Fiona Smith
- Kirsty Bonthrone
- Janice MacLennan
- Yvonne Jackson
Joep Eggermont facebook twtr
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