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Incompetent label was unfair, rules GTC

A primary teacher who was accused of being unable to manage his class has been cleared of serious professional incompetence.

England's General Teaching Council found the allegations against Alan Eldridge, formerly of King Offa primary in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex to be unfounded.

It said he had been undermined and cleared him of failing to engage actively pupils in lessons, to ensure they made progress and promote appropriately challenging work.

The council heard how Mr Eldridge, who was present at the hearing in Birmingham last Friday, was the subject of at least three competency procedures between 1999 and 2003.

Graham Weston, head of the school between 1997 and 2000, initiated the first in February 1999 after expressing concern about Mr Eldridge's teaching ability.

Stephen Murfitt, presenting officer, said nine professional advisers had monitored Mr Eldridge's lessons and all had found his lessons to be unsatisfactory.

Anthony Jones, head of King Offa for the past two years, said that 41 of 125 pupils who sought sanctuary in the school reception due to illness had come from Mr Eldridge's lessons.

Mr Jones said Mr Eldridge's classroom was hazardous and messy and that he had telephoned health and safety officers about the situation.

Mr Eldridge told the hearing that, as a result of the competency procedures, he had visited his GP with symptoms of stress and depression.

He said he had felt demoralised after being criticised in class and because of a lack of positive feedback.

The GTC heard that two Ofsted inspections had not found any of his lessons to be unsatisfactory.

Mr Eldridge said he had also successfully integrated a pupil with Downs Syndrome into his classes.

The panel heard that his role had changed, so he was expected to teach music, run after-school clubs and moved to a different classroom.

Mr Eldridge had taught at the 400-pupil school since 1979 and until 1999 had been primarily a Year 4 teacher.

Alan Thwaites, deputy head at King Offa between 1995 and 2000, told the hearing Mr Eldridge had no problems controlling his class. He said Mr Eldridge had been set unspecific targets and that people monitoring his lessons had sapped his confidence.

However, he added that is was "fair to say" Mr Eldridge had problems with organisation and lesson planning.

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