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Ex-teacher fails in GTC appeal

Judge rules that committee was right to strike off adviser, report Iain Axon and Philippa White.

A SCIENCE teacher found guilty of serious professional incompetence following a mental breakdown failed in a High Court bid to be allowed back to teaching.

Richard Dowson, now working as a training and careers adviser at King Edward VI school, in Retford, Nottinghamshire, is the first person to appeal against a competency decision by the General Teaching Council for England.

Craig Weaver, acting headteacher, said after the hearing that he was pleased to be able to use Mr Dowson in a different capacity.

Mr Dowson resigned from his job at King Edward's in August 2001, shortly before he was to be asked to leave, the High Court was told.

The school, which was monitoring his performance, referred him to the GTC where the professional competency committee (PCC) found him guilty of serious professional incompetence on June 24 this year.

He was struck off the teaching register until he proved he had taken "recent, relevant and substantial" training in "teaching and planning methodologies".

Akhlaq Choudhury, Mr Dowson's barrister, argued that the ruling was "perverse" and "erroneous" as it had not taken into account his poor mental health during the monitoring period. But the judge, Mr Justice Cooke, said the committee of two teachers and a lay member was "perfectly entitled" to reach its conclusion after taking into account Mr Dowson's medical problems.

He said Mr Dowson was diagnosed as suffering from an enlarged heart and high blood pressure in 1997, and was soon suffering from insomnia and a "significant mixed anxiety and depressive disorder".

The judge added that Mr Dowson did not complain about his health during the monitoring period, although he later said he hid his depression after learning how to "become a good actor".

Mr Justice Cooke said Mr Dowson had failed a number of teaching criteria, including ensuring lessons were objective and clear, setting them in an appropriate context, and providing feedback.

Mr Weaver said: "The case was dealt with in a professional way at the time and this is reflected in the appeal decision. The school did what it had to do in a very sensitive, supportive way.

"The school has been aware of Mr Dowson's strengths and it is extremely useful that we can now tap into his knowledge of the school, the students, and the education system for the benefit of students."

Mr Dowson, whose appeal was supported by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, was unavailable for comment.

Mary Howard, head of the NASUWT legal team, said: "We are disappointed but it shows us how to deal with GTC cases in the future - for example, by providing evidence from a psychiatrist at the hearing."

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