Give us internet use guidelines

Clearer guidance on internet use during school time should be issued to all teachers, say unions.

National guidelines were called for after an "outstanding" teacher "with a passion for teaching" appeared before a General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) hearing this week accused of neglecting pupils because she was shopping and banking online during teaching and lesson preparation time.

Sian Mediana, a former special needs teacher at Fairwater Primary School in Cardiff, was found guilty of professional misconduct. But the panel said it was not proven that her internet use ate into her planning time. Ms Mediana has been given a three-year conditional registration order, meaning she must notify new employers of the misconduct. She is also banned from using the internet for personal use during school time again.

She denied professional misconduct. "My attitude towards my job was absolutely enthusiastic for those children and I would never abuse that trust," she told the panel.

At the hearing, it was said that Ms Mediana bought and sold items on auction websites, including eBay, and went on social networking site Friends Reunited while she was meant to be teaching children with behavioural problems in the special unit.

She resigned in June 2007 after her computer was examined.

Classroom assistants Wendy Jones and Karen Lawrence said in statements that Ms Mediana would spend a considerable time every day on the computer, often turning the screen so no one could see what she was doing. They said she would regularly buy and sell items on eBay and take the parcels to the Post Office during school time.

Heather Thomas, her head, said Ms Mediana was one of the best teachers they had ever had in the unit and she had been awarded a grade 1 in an Estyn inspection, but that she had abused her position and neglected pupils' education.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the teachers' union ATL Cymru, said he disagreed with draconian policing of the web for teachers if use did not infringe on teaching time. He also said cases such as this should not be dealt with by the GTCW, but kept within a school's internal disciplinary system.

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