Jailed head's 'joy' over job
A headteacher jailed for dangerous driving - an offence that left a victim in a wheelchair - has been allowed to return to his post following a two-year battle for his job.
Paul Davies will resume his leadership of Cwmdare Primary in Aberdare this September. The decision, by a disciplinary appeal committee of the school's governing body, follows a successful High Court appeal last month against a teaching ban.
This week he spoke to TES Cymru in a bid to convince fellow teaching professionals he should be given a second chance.
He spoke of his "joy and surprise" at this week's decision, but also says he understands the "hostility and resentment" that's bound to follow.
"I could talk forever and a day about the support I've received from colleagues, the governing body and the National Association of Head Teachers," he said.
"But in my darkest days there was always this doubt; are the school's needs going to be greater than its professional commitment to me?"
Mr Davies had been banned from teaching in February by a professional conduct committee of the General Teaching for Wales (GTCW), and prevented from applying for reinstatement for at least two years.
The ban was set aside by Mr Justice Blair in the High Court last month, paving the way for Mr Davies to return to his post if agreed by the disciplinary committee. It gave the go-ahead on Tuesday night.
"The GTCW's decision angered me," he said. "At every opportunity I expressed my remorse and sorrow."
Mr Davies said he had been to the school many times since his release. His five-year-old daughter, Taylor, is a pupil there.
"I attended the Christmas concert as a parent. And, whatever the outcome of the appeal hearing, I'd have been at the end-of-term concert and parents' evening."
He has also been considering serving voluntarily as a parent governor. But the head regrets how his daughter has been caught up in events. "She's very astute and was picking things up from other people, latching on to things. It's been an added complication."
Mr Davies now hopes to be back in the school this summer, catching up on planning and paperwork.
"The school has been looked after remarkably well by the staff. And I've every indication that they are 100 per cent behind me."
Support for Mr Davies within the valleys community was well highlighted during the High Court appeal, with written testimonials and petitions. But despite Mr Justice Blair's decision, Mr Davies did not escape without criticism.
The judge who jailed him at Merthyr Crown Court last June said he had driven like "a lunatic".
Mr Davies made a brief return to the school following his release from prison. He served just three-and-a-half months of the original 15-month sentence.
"I was asked by an older pupil, 'Sir, what's prison like?' My answer was that it's not a nice place, not somewhere you want to go."
He praised the "exceptional" governors, who backed him throughout. "When I was first jailed I thought I would be in for seven-and-a-half months. I wasn't aware I could be out in three-and-a-half. I was tagged.
"But I decided not to come back to school until the tag was removed from my leg, and the governors took the same view."
Mr Davies says he now has a better understanding of punishment and forgiveness, something he will take back to teaching.
"If a child does something wrong, and you continue to remind them that they've messed up, that child will not attempt anything. I've got to give something extra to the job. I think my experience will bring things into the curriculum in a reflective way."
Speaking of how the GTCW had conducted Mr Davies's case, Anne Hovey, NAHT regional organiser, said: "I think it did not pay sufficient heed to Mr Davies's track record, and how that translated into support from the governing body.
"If the employer, in this case the governing body, wants this person back, is the GTCW best placed to remove that person?"
The crash caused by Mr Davies in May 2006 left Kelvin Palmer seriously injured. His wife Anne Palmer, head of business studies at Treorchy Comprehensive, has already said it is appalling that a convicted criminal should be allowed back into teaching.
In February, the GTCW argued that Mr Davies had damaged the profession's reputation and "showed a persistent lack of insight into the quality of his driving".
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TES Cymru would like to make it clear that it is the NAHT Cymru, and not the National Union of Teachers, which has supported Mr Davies during his appeal. This was incorrectly stated in a paragraph within the article, "Jailed head wins appeal as ban is overturned" in last week's edition.