`Dishonest' Barra teacher struck off

11th April 2014 at 01:00
Secondary tutor may be barred from working with children

An English teacher who victimised students and showed a "clear pattern of deliberate dishonesty" has been struck off by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

Witnesses told a hearing that Janice Ross, who worked at Castlebay School on the Isle of Barra from 2007 to 2010, had caused psychological harm and seriously damaged students' exam prospects.

A GTCS fitness-to-teach panel found Ms Ross to have fallen short of expected standards on several counts. It noted "extensive failings" in her treatment of students, including "having a clique of favourites and victimising others". She was also found to have very poor relationships with colleagues.

Anne MacLean, now headteacher of Castlebay and then acting head, told the panel how she had sought to address general concerns about the English department of which Ms Ross was a member. She said there had been a "marked deterioration" in students' work since P7, with even extremely able children struggling. More able students were getting the worst treatment from Ms Ross, she found.

Students reported bullying and favouritism and did not feel prepared for exams. One student, Eilidh Henderson, now studying French and international business at the University of Strathclyde, said that the harder she tried the more she was singled out by Ms Ross. Ms Henderson dropped out of the class and "pleaded" with her guidance teacher not to go back.

Castlebay depute head Suzanne Forman said Ms Henderson was "intelligent and hardworking" but "had spent several months being targeted and humiliated" by her teacher. Ms Henderson achieved four As at Higher but a C in English.

The panel noted the "emotion and distress" of Ms Henderson, even six years after the events.

It also found that Ms Ross "failed to take account of gender, cultural and religious sensitivities" in the small, largely Catholic community, when she said to one girl, who did not know the meaning of the word gossamer, "For God's sake, you should know that - it's on a packet of Durex".

According to Dr Pauline Sangster of the University of Edinburgh, who was called in to review Ms Ross and the English department, the teacher had very poor relationships with colleagues and also displayed "bullying, aggressive, harassing, manipulative, flirtatious, dishonest and defensive" behaviour. Dr Sangster added that Ms Ross had allowed conflicts with staff to be observed by students, which was "completely unacceptable and unprofessional".

Ms MacLean described how, on occasion, Ms Ross would bring knitting to meetings and sit with her back to colleagues.

The panel heard how she undermined a visiting professional, John Dillon, when he was teaching one of her classes, by sharing Polo mints among students, reading aloud contrary to his request and leaving the classroom in a "laughing fit". Mr Dillon said he arrived too late to help students in their exams.

Ms Ross also drove students and other young people in a car when she had only a provisional licence and no insurance. On one occasion in 2007, this led to a conviction, pound;100 fine and six penalty points.

On another occasion Ms Ross failed to report that a female student was absent from school and was believed to be with her 24-year-old boyfriend.

The panel found that Ms Ross showed a "clear pattern of deliberate dishonesty". In a 2005 application form, she falsely told Western Isles Council that she held a full driving licence.

In September 2013, she applied for supply teaching with Highland Council, indicating that she had left Western Isles owing to a disagreement with senior management, whereas she had actually been dismissed. She also falsely indicated that she had never been convicted of a crime.

The panel found that Ms Ross's shortcomings could have been remedied had she been willing to face up to them, but she insisted throughout that there was nothing wrong with her teaching.

The panel was "very concerned" by her "lack of insight and remorse". In a statement last month, Ms Ross wrote: "I am an inspiring and dedicated teacher with a proven record of attainment." The panel saw "no evidence whatsoever to justify these claims" and removed her from the teaching register for the maximum period of two years.

It has referred Ms Ross to Scottish ministers to consider whether she should be barred from working with children.

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