Fake college was a 'one-man band'

30th May 2003 at 01:00
Teacher tricked colleague into signing phoney reference, reports Becky Sharp

A TEACHER who passed off his private tutoring business as a college, so that he could fabricate a reference, has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

The General Teaching Council for England heard that Michael Morrison, 48, had made up a reference, tricking a colleague into signing it, claiming it came from an exclusive college.

The reference secured him a job at a north London school. When he was suspended for another matter teachers became suspicious of the college's existence, as it was noticed that it shared the same address as Mr Morrison.

Mr Morrison told the hearing that Kingshill Tutoring College was where "like-minded teachers would meet the needs of students who needed help", and had been providing young people and adults with additional learning support since the mid-Eighties.

He said he and a group of teachers had set up the business as a part-time venture while they worked at Beacon preparatory school in Amersham, Buckingham.

But presenting officer Graham Shaw said: "It seems to me that Mr Morrison was giving a weight to that institution which was totally unmerited.

"It appears to be a substantial institution suggesting buildings, structures and heads of department, but certainly at that time it was no more than a mobile telephone number, Mr Morrison's home address and a photocopier in the garage."

In a reference that helped him get a post as an inclusion officer at Lea Valley high, Enfield, Middlesex, in 1999, Mr Morrison was described as "vice-principal, head of humanities, and head of special needs" at Kingshill. It was signed by "principal" Hugh Osbourne.

Giving evidence, Janet Cullen-Cornelius, principal of Lea Valley, said that following Mr Morrison's suspension she had found Kingshill Tutoring College to have the same address as his home.

She said: "I was under the impression that it was a large establishment with proper structures - a bona fide college. Had the reference said that this was something he had run from his home and he was a one-man band, I would have thought very differently."

Mrs Cullen-Cornelius contacted Mr Osbourne as part of her investigation. He told her he had never heard of a college called Kingshill, or ever held a position as principal.

Mr Osbourne, a retired teacher from Beacon, said Mr Morrison had asked him to sign a reference that he had typed out in his name. "I didn't read it in great detail but I signed it. I have never heard of Kingshill Tutoring College in my life," he said.

He said he had not written such phrases as "he is one of the most inspiring teachers I have ever met", or that Mr Morrison had "run the most successful geography department in many years".

During cross-examination, Mr Morrison told the committee that Mr Osbourne must have "forgotten" that he agreed to be acting principal of the college he described as a "loose band of teachers". He said that the teachers who helped him to found the college had since "died or disappeared".

The committee found Mr Morrison guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and upheld a second allegation of failing to follow school procedures in the organising and collecting of money for a trip to Snowdonia.

The geography teacher is awaiting sanction after Department for Education and Skills documents were discovered a few days ago which may have an effect on his future teaching career. They will be discussed at a second hearing.

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