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Teacher swore in class, say pupils

Accused also insulted child in wheelchair, GTC is told. Tara Fawcett reports

A supply teacher accused of swearing in front of pupils and using the word "spacca" to refer to disabled people during a lesson has appeared before the General Teaching Council for England.

Peter Walsh, who was covering a Year 10 history lesson at Churchill community college, Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, when the alleged incidents occurred, is also accused of making little or no effort to teach the lesson.

The GTC committee heard that Mr Walsh was convicted of causing criminal damage and using threatening and abusive language in February 1997, when he was given a 12-month conditional discharge. These offences occurred before he started working at the school.

Mr Walsh, who attended the hearing in Birmingham last week, admitted his criminal conviction but denied the other charges against him.

Elaine Riley, assistant headteacher at the school, told the committee that a girl complained after the lesson on November 20, 2003, saying Mr Walsh had spent the lesson talking about his life and swearing.

She then asked another pupil about the lesson. "Without knowing what the other pupil said, he told the same stories and gave the same examples, nearly word for word," she said.

Mrs Riley said she had also asked a wheelchair-bound pupil what he thought.

"He said: 'I wasn't really upset but the teacher used the word spacca,'" she told the committee.

Mrs Riley said that when she questioned Mr Walsh he denied the allegations.

She then asked him to leave and called Protocol, his employment agency.

Mr Walsh, representing himself at the hearing, denied the allegations and said the pupil who initially made them had threatened that she would get him the sack. He said she had colluded with the other pupil, who had repeated her allegations.

He added: "I don't swear in front of kids. I was in a strange school with the doors wide open and teachers walking up and down the corridor - I'm hardly going to swear."

Mr Walsh denied referring to a disabled person as a "spacca".

"I've never used that word in my life - I have two disabled kids myself," he said.

In response to the charge that he made little or no effort to teach the lesson, he said: "They wanted to hear stories - they didn't want to copy out of 1990s textbooks. That's not teaching, that's copying... They asked me if I'd ever taken drugs and I told them they'd messed my life up and if they were taking them, I hoped they'd grow out of them."

The committee heard from Katie Lawton, a former recruitment consultant for Protocol. "I felt he could go over the top and that his judgement in the classroom was different from others," she said.

Ms Lawton added that she thought his use of language was more colloquial than the children were used to. The hearing has been adjourned.


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