'Dictator ' banned from headships

29th September 2006 at 01:00
A headteacher who ran his school like a dictatorship, made sexual advances towards staff and employed his wife and daughter has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

England's General Teaching Council heard that Mark Braine, who was head at Avon Valley school and performing arts college from September 1992 to April 2005, employed his wife and promoted her to a senior position without consulting school governors or the education authority.

Mr Braine, who chose not to attend the hearing, was also found guilty of abusing, bullying and humiliating staff.

Mr Braine's actions at the Warwickshire school led to a "regime of fear"

according to former deputy head Don O'Neil.

Giving evidence, Mr O'Neil said: "He became an autocratic bully and many members of staff left because of this. On one occasion he said he could make us clean the toilet if he wanted to.

"He shouted at his leadership team like he shouted at children and left numerous staff in tears. You quickly learned not to say no in order to protect your career."

It was also said that Mr Braine made persistent and unwanted approaches to seven women colleagues and had "close personal relationships" with two others.

Mr Braine, who has been teaching for 34 years, allegedly told one married female colleague: "I have an understanding with my wife and I'm available if you know what I mean". And told another: "I always get what I want".

Many of the women felt "uncomfortable" with his behaviour and found themselves excluded if they rejected his advances. He made others feel their job prospects would be jeopordised by a refusal, the hearing was told.

After employing and promoting his wife, Mr Braine also appointed his daughter to posts at the school without consulting senior staff, the LEA or the governing body. The committee heard how the vacancy had not been advertised and that the appointment was a clear conflict of interest.

One member of staff with whom Mr Braine had a relationship said in her statement: "The line was crossed but I would not have called it an affair."

In his written statement, Mr Braine stated: "I never had an affair or any sexual relationship with this member of staff. We were close and perhaps we spent too much time together so that we were vulnerable to rumours. My manner towards women has always been warm and friendly.

"And I was diagnosed with diabetes as a result of continuous stress, symptoms of which can be short temper and irritability."

Mr Braine's conduct was investigated by Warwickshire council in October 2004 following complaints from governors. He was dismissed in April 2005.

Tony Brown, former LEA education officer who formed part of the investigation team, said: "Mr Braine had been abusing, humiliating and bullying staff by making unwanted approaches to female members of staff; by using patronage and favouritism in appointments and by routinely disregarding employment practices."

Under cross-examination, Mr Brown accepted that Mr Braine had turned the school around in the three years he had been in charge.

Mr Braine's representative, Victoria Windle, said he was under a lot of pressure after a catastrophic fire destroyed 90 per cent of the school in June 2004.

"A glowing Ofsted report in May 2004 was extremely complimentary of Mr Braine's excellent leadership skills. The school was failing and achieving poor results until he took over," she said.

Andrew Baxter, GTC commitee chair, said: "Mr Braine's behaviour brought the standing of the teaching profession into disrepute. He must not occupy a senior position until he has completed a national professional qualification of headteachers and a registered course in bullying, harassment and equal opportunities."

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