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Culture clash over teaching style

An experienced teacher who was told she could not manage classroom behaviour has been found not guilty of serious professional incompetence by England's General Teaching Council.

Caroline Lathe, who taught science at Settle high school and community college in North Yorkshire, was also accused of not preparing appropriate work and failing to structure her lessons and mark work properly. She had worked in New Zealand schools for more than 10 years before joining in September 2002.

The GTC cleared Mrs Lathe of three charges but said classroom observations had proved that some of her lessons were badly paced and did not differentiate between more and less able students.

It heard the school became concerned about her after an Office for Standards in Education inspection in October 2002 found a Year 9 science lesson unsatisfactory.

The school then observed Mrs Lathe's lessons 15 times before she resigned on May 24, 2003.

It said Mrs Lathe, who has taught primary, secondary and university students, failed to comply with school policies and criticised her for allowing children to call out during lessons.

She said this was an accepted practice in New Zealand and that she wanted to encourage pupils to voice opinions in a controlled environment. "I would expect a hum of noise and discussion," she said. "In New Zealand we learn to teach children with respect and expect them to respect us."

Mrs Lathe, now teaching in Scotland, said she failed to understand a culture in which pupils stayed quiet.

John Needham, her union representative told the GTC that if Mrs Lathe had been a bad teacher she would not have achieved similar exam results to other science teachers at the school.

But Mrs Lathe said she struggled to settle into the school, that it did not have a marking policy and was generally badly organised.

The GTC heard that her relationship with Hugh Williets, her head of department, deteriorated after the inspection to the point where the pair could only communicate by using notes.

Mrs Lathe said: "Dr Williets told me I was awful and the biggest problem he had ever encountered during his career."

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