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Pupils were emotionally abused, claim parents

A teacher accused of emotionally abusing pupils has appeared before a conduct hearing of the General Teaching Council for England.

Danuta Pierce, who had taught Year 3 pupils at St Martin's Church of England primary, Folkestone, Kent, since September 1991, received 17 written complaints from parents of children in her class, who claimed her behaviour caused them distress.

She was accused of shouting excessively and crumpling up pupils' work, making them anxious and reluctant to come to school.

Wynne Robins, the headteacher, told the hearing that everything ran smoothly at first and she described Mrs Pierce as a competent teacher. But she said: "After a while, I taught in the classroom next to Mrs Pierce. Her voice would come through the walls. Many of the children I taught were worried about going up to her class. On one occasion she marched a pupil into my class and berated them as part of her discipline procedure."

The head received 17 complaints from parents between 1997 and 2002, including one from a parent who claimed that Mrs Pierce had grabbed her son by the neck.

Michael Beckwith, from Kent County Council, was asked in March, 2002 to conduct an investigation. "The head had received letters of complaint in February, 2002 from a parent of a child from Mrs Pierce's class," he told the hearing.

"The parent believed her daughter had become distant, lacked self-esteem and had dropped a level in maths and literacy as a result of being in Mrs Pierce's class.

"The conclusion I reached was that Mrs Pierce's behaviour constituted emotional abuse to some of the pupils."

Robert Bourns, presenting officer, said: "There is no suggestion that Mrs Pierce is not a good teacher in the technical sense.

"She refers to herself as a disciplinarian and maintained tight control of her classroom, but she had gone beyond that point and there was conduct that disturbed children."

Wayne Hamlyn, whose children attended Mrs Pierce's class, said that his youngsters had flourished in her care.

"I have known Mrs Pierce since 1991 and I have had nothing but praise for her ability to teach. Her discipline has always been fair and appropriate," he said.

Mr Hamlyn suggested that parents had simply "jumped on a bandwagon" created around her.

The hearing was adjourned until March 15, when Mrs Pierce is expected to give her evidence.

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