Head accused of breaching human rights

31st March 2006 at 01:00
A headteacher who allegedly held a special needs pupil in a head lock and kicked another's feet from under him when he started to cry has appeared at a disciplinary hearing.

John Davies is said to have led a regime which breached the basic human rights of pupils at Swinford Manor, a residential boys' school in Ashford, Kent.

He reappeared before England's General Teaching Council last week charged with unacceptable professional conduct.

The 58-year-old, who was head from 1989 to 2000, first went before the GTC last September when he was accused of using early-morning runs as punishment.

At the hearing in Birmingham, he admitted using the runs as punishment, but said they were useful bonding experiences.

At the earlier hearing, Ian Craig, assistant director of operations for Kent, described the runs as abuse.

But Mr Davies said: "If taking kids for cross country runs is physical abuse, the GTC has a job for life. If you say to a child 'you have an extra hour in the classroom using your mind' is that mental abuse?"

Mr Davies, who has been a teacher for 30 years, told the hearing that he had run an exceptional school for difficult pupils - one which Ofsted deemed "outstanding" in 1996. The school, for boys aged between 10 and 16, was awarded beacon status in 1998.

Mr Davies was sacked in 2000 for gross misconduct after a complaint from a parent and an investigation by Kent county council. He no longer works as a teacher.

He admitted taking videos of pupils being restrained to assist training, saying "it was to protect pupils and inform staff". Dr Craig had previously likened the restraints shown in the videos to a horse being broken in.

At the previous hearing Dr Craig said: "There is no justification for the regime at the Swinford Manor school. It breached the basic human rights of the boys for dignity, care and sensitivity."

Mr Davies faces allegations that he did not provide appropriate care for pupils and acted in a manner inconsistent with child protection measures agreed with statutory agencies. He denies both charges. He also denies that he inappropriately restrained pupils, holding one in a head lock in assembly and kicking the legs from under another.

He told the disciplinary hearing that all the restraints were appropriate and used infrequently.

Eric Jackson, the former head of care at the 60-pupil school, said that a two-day training session which focused on restraint gave the staff "a free ticket to abuse".

Mr Davies said about 12 to 15 pupils were restrained every year at Swinford. "There was no increase in that after the training. In the year after I was suspended there were 168 restraints."

The hearing was adjourned.

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