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Deputy cleared of bullying staff

Teacher quit after complaints from colleagues that she was too confrontational. Simon Dawson reports

A deputy head who quit after being accused of bullying and harassing three teachers has been cleared of unacceptable professional conduct by England's General Teaching Council.

Janet Criddle, who taught at Lethbridge primary in Swindon, Wiltshire, for 11 years, said the allegations were part of a witch-hunt by the school's head.

A disciplinary hearing in Birmingham this week was told that the former deputy head suffered financially, emotionally and professionally as a result of a lack of support from some staff at the school.

Mrs Criddle is now working as a consultant to a children's centre and as a teaching assistant at Goddard Park primary in Swindon.

She said Norman Ray, head of Lethbridge, had not backed her in her dealings with other staff.

Mr Ray told the GTC that he had no choice but to discipline Mrs Criddle after receiving five complaints in a year.

"I concluded that her behaviour was unacceptable," he said. "She was not capable of dealing with staff on a level that was expected of a deputy."

The disciplinary hearing was told that Mrs Criddle embarrassed Gaby Maseyk, a Year 3 teacher, by talking about her salary in the staffroom.

Mrs Maseyk said Mrs Criddle had told her she did not do enough to earn any more and should be grateful for what she got.

Sheena Broadbent, another Y3 teacher, accused Mrs Criddle of a difficult and confrontational attitude after the two argued in March 2004. She said Mrs Criddle had ranted and raved.

Ms Broadbent said: "It left me physically shaking and crying for an hour."

On the same day, Hugh McQuade, a teaching assistant, said Mrs Criddle argued with staff, leaving them feeling bullied and harassed. He described her behaviour as totally illogical.

The GTC heard that Mrs Criddle had been off work from summer 2002 until the beginning of January 2003, suffering from stress after inspectors criticised her management skills.

Mrs Criddle said the allegations from staff were a part of a wider witch-hunt against her by the head. She was suspended on January 3, 2004, and resigned in March because she felt she had no support from Mr Ray.

* A primary teacher was banned from teaching by the GTC last week after being convicted of sending anonymous threatening and abusive letters to parents who complained about him.

Leo Murray, who taught at St Hugh's primary in Altrincham, Manchester, harassed a parent for more than two years. He sent her a pornographic video, said he was going to "get her" and poured paint stripper on her car.

He was given a two-year community rehabilitation order at Manchester crown court in 2005.

The disciplinary hearing banned him after taking into account written evidence which highlighted the "serious nature of his personality disorder".


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