'Incompetent' teacher claims 'agenda' against her

23rd April 2010 at 01:00
She tells disciplinary hearing that the head wanted her gone because she was on a high pay scale

A primary school teacher has been banned from the classroom for two years after being found guilty of serious professional incompetence.

A General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) competency committee decided that Vanessa Purnell's teaching skills were substandard, despite her having 25 years' experience.

Ms Purnell was dismissed from Crindau Primary School in Newport last year after consistently failing to meet basic targets.

Martin Jones, presenting the case for the GTCW, said Ms Purnell's teaching "fell far below" the required standard.

Sarah Davies, head of Crindau Primary, said Ms Purnell was transferred to a mainstream class for Years 1 and 2 pupils in 2003 after concerns were raised over the standard of teaching in her special-needs class.

However, the standard of work from Ms Purnell's pupils was "significantly lower" than comparable classes, and around half failed to meet the expected targets.

Ms Davies said Ms Purnell's teaching had a "negative impact" on her pupils' esteem, well-being and attendance. She also said there was an increase in the number of pupils requiring intervention schemes for numeracy and literacy problems.

Pupils complained of being bored and not learning anything, and there were three parental requests for pupils to be moved.

Some staff requested not to work with Ms Purnell, and four teachers whose children were pupils at Crindau asked that they were not taught by her.

Crindau deputy head Sian Gwilliam chose not to use her management time because she did not want Ms Purnell taking her class in her absence, the GTCW was told.

Ms Purnell was made subject to the school's capability procedure and given extra support, including one-to-one mentoring, visits to other schools to observe best practice, and ten-and-a-half hours of tailored support from a council improvement officer.

But even though her workload was reduced to four-and-a-half days a week and her class size was cut, there was no improvement in the six key targets set for her, it was found.

Gareth Coombes, lead school improvement officer for Newport City Council, observed several of Ms Purnell's lessons and said that although she cared for her pupils she found teaching a "challenge".

He said that even with significant support over a long period she was incapable of meeting the targets, and continually fell short of providing an acceptable level of education.

Ms Davies said the cost of the capability procedure put the school in a poor budget position and led to a reduction in staff. But Ms Purnell alleged that Ms Davies had "an agenda" to get rid of her because she was on a high pay scale, and said she was left feeling "intimidated, harangued and marginalised".

She said she was given no guidance or training to move back into mainstream teaching after 14 years working exclusively with special-needs pupils, and suffered from work-related stress and depression as a result of the capability procedure.

NUT Cymru secretary David Evans, who represented Ms Purnell, said she was not incompetent, and would not have failed if given the proper training and support.

"The school did nothing to alleviate her stress - instead they heaped more stress on her," he said.

Jacqui Turnbull, chairman of the panel, said Ms Purnell showed a persistent lack of insight into her shortcomings, and that her lack of competence was "fundamentally incompatible" with her continuing to be a registered teacher.

The committee decided that only a prohibition order would be suitable, and said Ms Purnell could not re-register as a teacher for two years.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Evans said Ms Purnell was "surprised" at the severity of the sanction, and would take time to decide whether to appeal.

Original paper headline: `Incompetent' teacher banned for two years claims `agenda' against her

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