Ban for teacher who swore and kicked desks

30th January 2009 at 00:00
He upset primary pupils by criticising teenage mothers and lost his temper in front of whole class

A teacher who lashed out at pupils, made comments about teenage mothers and kicked furniture has been banned from the classroom for two years after appearing to show no remorse.

Robert Burke also swore in front of children and made inappropriate remarks about his head while working at two primary schools in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

Members of a General Teaching Council panel, who this week issued Mr Burke with a prohibition order, said the case gave them "grave cause for concern" because he hadn't shown any "insight" into his behaviour.

Mr Burke, who didn't turn up to the hearing, blamed headteachers, governors, parents and the local education authority instead.

In May 2006 he "handled" one pupil at Limehurst Junior Infant and Nursery School, shouted at another and kicked a desk which "tilted" towards two children, the panel was told.

Vedia Glover, who saw the incident, said that Mr Burke admitted that he "had not lost his temper with a boy like that for 20 years".

While working at St Margaret's CofE Primary School, also in Oldham, from 1999 until 2003, Mr Burke made inappropriate comments about teenage mothers, which upset pupils and parents complained, the hearing was told.

He also used the word "bastard" in front of a class at a time when he was angry about the head's decision to stop PE lessons off site. Mr Burke continued to make comments about the headteacher in the staffroom. His words included swearing and implied violence.

Allegations that Mr Burke called pupils "thick and stupid" and shouted at one child, "Don't you ever speak to me like that again, do you understand", or words to that effect, were not upheld.

Other allegations which the panel couldn't find evidence to support include a threatening comment to pupils in which Mr Burke said he would "batter" them and their parents if they didn't get their work correct and another heated exchange with his headteacher.

Speaking about the incident where Mr Burke was said to have shouted and kicked the desk, the GTC panel said: "Mr Burke's conduct was totally unacceptable. This was a fit of temper on his part and he displayed his uncontrolled anger to the whole class. Mr Burke did not follow the school's prescribed procedures for dealing with a pupil whom he regarded as misbehaving. We do not believe Mr Burke's contention that he was using restraining force to protect other pupils."

Discussing the comments about teenage mothers and the headteacher, the panel said: "He handled the presentation of highly sensitive material in a manner that clearly confused some of his young students and upset their families."

His suggestion that his comments were appropriate showed a significant lack of judgment, the panel said. Swearing in front of his students this was "inexcusable in any circumstances but is exacerbated in this case because it undermined the authority of his headteacher", the panel said.

"It was wholly inappropriate for Mr Burke to express his anger at the headteacher's decision to colleagues in a highly offensive and threatening manner which caused some to be upset and frightened.

"This case has given us grave cause for concern. We have heard no evidence that Mr Burke demonstrates any insight into the failings disclosed by the evidence."

Mr Burke can apply to be a teacher again in two years' time.


The fee that teachers must pay to register with the General Teaching Council for England is set to rise by Pounds 4 a year.

The increase from Pounds 33 to Pounds 37 will take effect from this September if approved by the Government.

It provoked an angry response from Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT (above) who described the decision as "disgraceful". "Unnecessary amounts of money are already spent on things other agencies are already doing, should be doing, or are doing better," she said.

But Keith Bartley, the council's chief executive, said it would be the first rise for three years. Fees would not be increased again for a further three years, he said, which means less than a 2 per cent rise per year between 2006 and 2012.

"Teachers receive an allowance of Pounds 33 towards the cost of their registration fee, so the net cost to teachers remains very small, at around Pounds 4 per annum," he said.

David Marley.

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