A former soldier who served in Iraq, this man's teaching career ended after a bungled charge of gross misconduct. He has now been awarded #163;63k

3rd September 2010 at 01:00

A soldier-turned-science-teacher has been awarded close to the maximum payout for unfair dismissal after his school sacked him for grabbing the lapels of a pupil who tried to abscond from detention.

David Roy was awarded #163;63,000 for a bungled disciplinary procedure following the incident, which took place at Collegiate High School in Blackpool in December 2008.

A judge found that the internal disciplinary panel that sacked him for gross misconduct in July 2009 had "failed to consider the legal right to detain" the pupil.

Mr Roy said he had grabbed the boy after he pushed past him as he tried to make his escape. The boy was not injured in the scuffle.

The tribunal found the case against Mr Roy had been fudged by the school's management and had been "wholly unfair" in including an earlier allegation of misconduct for which he had already been exonerated.

It also found that the school had no evidence for a third allegation that he had grabbed a boy in the dinner hall, but still included it in the case for dismissal.

After a hearing in Manchester last month, the judge's ruling on the case said: "We do not accept that any safeguarding issue justified such an approach" by the school.

The ruling also said it was unfair to conflate three allegations of misconduct into "gross misconduct".

Mr Roy - who served in Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War before becoming a teacher - argued there were major disciplinary problems at the school that management had refused to face. Any teacher who asked for help managing behaviour was told it was their own fault if they could not control their class, he alleged.

The father of two young children said the headteacher had started to put together a case against him not long after he approached her for help with discipline.

He had been working at the school for ten years before the incidents occurred, and had not previously struggled with discipline in lessons.

Mr Roy, who now earns just #163;16,500 a year after retraining as a St John Ambulance crew member, told The TES: "My overriding view is that my case was investigated with a view to making me appear guilty without ascertaining the facts.

"Children were asked for statements but I wasn't. It was designed with this outcome in mind."

He said staff had become very concerned in recent years about "gangs of kids" roaming the school, pupils talking back and openly smoking in the playground. "I think the school was in denial," he said.

Mr Roy said he was inspired to become a teacher by his wife, who also teaches. After leaving the army and getting a degree he became bored working in an office and opted for teacher training. The Government has said it is for keen for more service personnel to train as teachers.

Mr Roy said that the experience at Collegiate High School had robbed him of his career, but he still dreamt of a return to teaching, possibly through supply work.

"It's difficult for me now. I'm middle-aged, cost more than an NQT and I have this thing to explain to people," he said.

Jenni Watson, a former deputy head who represented Mr Roy at the hearing, said: "Any mention of safeguarding, child abuse or child protection, and there's a knee-jerk reaction that seems to remove common sense. People are regularly dismissed without proper evidence of the risk that they might do something.

"This turns on its head the principles of natural justice, which allow a person who is innocent to remain innocent until proven guilty."

A Blackpool Council spokeswoman said: "We understand the decision made at the tribunal but it is matter for the governing body (of the school). We will continue to provide the school with support, if requested."

DISCIPLINE

Before the election, Education Secretary Michael Gove said he would clamp down on poor behaviour in schools and make life easier for teachers facing accusations by pupils and parents.

Mr Gove proposed to improve teachers' right to restrain unruly pupils in order to split up fights.

He said there would also be anonymity for staff accused of mistreating children to protect against malicious allegations.

He suggested introducing powers to search children for any item, such as mobile phones or iPods.

The Government's plans for improving school discipline are expected to be included in an education white paper this October.

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