Crime to classroom career turnaround approved

7th May 2010 at 01:00
Convictions `no longer relevant' says GTCW, as it clears former tearaway to teach

A mother of four with a string of criminal convictions is to become a registered teacher after a General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) panel heard how she had turned her life around.

Karen Elizabeth Berry, now aged 35, was convicted of a number of serious offences when she was a teenager, including theft, shoplifting, burglary and criminal damage.

But a GTCW committee sitting in Cardiff decided she should be allowed into the classroom after being impressed at how she had put her past behind her and dedicated herself to teaching.

Ms Berry told the committee that her life "spiralled out of control" when she was 13 after discovering she was adopted.

She left her adoptive parents and spent several years living in children's homes. She then started getting into trouble after "associating with the wrong people".

In 1991 she appeared before magistrates in Newport and Monmouth on a number of occasions for different offences. She was given a supervision order for taking a vehicle without authority and driving without insurance, then later a 12-month conditional discharge for obstructing police and threatening to damage property.

She said: "I was very confused at the time, struggling with my emotions and behaviour. I was stupid, naive and immature."

Despite leaving school with no qualifications, Ms Berry said she realised she wanted to become a teacher after helping her eldest son with his homework.

After completing an access course and taking classes in English and maths, she enrolled on a PGCE course at the University of Wales, Newport - completing placements at primary and secondary schools - and finished her studies last year.

Ms Berry told the committee she was "fully committed" to teaching and full of "enthusiasm and energy" for a career in the classroom.

She said: "I have worked and studied and brought up my family to get where I want to be today. I have completely changed my life and put the past behind me. By no means do the convictions reflect who I am today. I am remorseful and embarrassed about my past."

Gareth Jones, the committee chairman, said that registration should be granted.

Although the offences were serious, they took place many years ago during a period of personal difficulty and the circumstances that gave rise to them were no longer relevant, he said.

Ms Berry had "demonstrated insight and remorse" and shown herself to be "trustworthy and responsible".

He added: "She has maintained high standards during her work experience and shown commitment to her chosen profession."

Original paper headline: Life of crime to career in the classroom turnaround approved

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