Bogus priest to teach on with help

6th December 2002 at 00:00
A teacher who told a string of lies has been allowed to stay in the profession providing he sees a psychiatrist. George Wright reports

A TEACHER who told a string of bizarre lies and posed as an ordained priest, even wearing a dog collar at school, has been allowed to continue teaching.

A General Teaching Council England hearing in Birmingham ruled that John Batten, a former science teacher at Manshead Church of England upper school in Caddington, Luton, could stay in the profession providing he received psychiatric help.

The hearing heard how Mr Batten, 39, agreed to resign when a series of claims were investigated by the school and found to be false.

However, he has since started a new job as deputy head of science at another Luton school. Among the most serious of the lies was Mr Batten's claim to be an ordained priest.

Manshead head Ian Greenley told the tribunal he was so convinced by the act that he gave Mr Batten extra money for improving spirituality at the school.

He said: "We are a Church of England school and the pupils would have been aware of his claims that he was an ordained priest because he often wore a dog collar around the school.

"I would be surprised if some of the students did not approach Mr Batten for advice believing him to be a minister of the church."

Mr Batten also told staff and pupils that he lost close family and friends in the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11.

And, in an apparent attempt to elicit further sympathy, he pretended to suffer from diabetes and said he had both testicles removed as a result of cancer.

"That we also discovered was untrue," said Mr Greenley.

Mr Batten admitted he had lied about holding a PSV licence that allowed him to drive the school minibus, Mr Greenley said.

He also told the hearing, last Friday, how Mr Batten falsely claimed to hold a PhD and MSc in music from London University. However, Mr Greenley confirmed that Mr Batten was a qualified teacher.

Mr Batten admitted lying to the school but said he was now teaching at a new school, Lea Manor high in Luton, and wanted to rebuild his career.

He said: "I applied for the post of head of science but was given the number two position instead. When I was offered the job I explained to the head about this hearing and I was still offered employment.

"It is a totally clean sheet. I have never had anything to do with the area or the school. I want to teach and I want to rebuild my career."

Graham Shaw, prosecuting, said: "The untruths went on over an exceptional amount of time, 11 years from 1990 when he started at the school. This is an unusual and difficult case and the committee has to decide if he is on the road to recovery."

The hearing was offered evidence from a consultant psychiatrist who said that Mr Batten showed no evidence of mental illness but he has a condition that is bordering on one.

He added that he did not consider Mr Batten to be a danger to children.

Defending Mr Batten, Mark Essex said: "The allegations have not been denied. He has searched for help from the local vicar, his GP and his sister-in-law, a student in psychotherapy.

"His teaching abilities have not been in question."

A conditional order was made allowing Mr Batten to continue at his new school as long as he seeks a "long-term course of psychotherapy" and registers the psychiatrist with the council and his current employer.

A statement issued on behalf of Lea Manor school by Luton council said Mr Batten had been subject to medical and police checks before he was employed. It added that all of the qualifications he claimed were verified.

"The school will follow the recommendations and guidelines of the GTC and offer Mr Batten all the support he requires," it said.

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