Lessons were 'disastrous', 'dangerous' and 'shambolic'

8th October 2010 at 01:00
Yet physics teacher continued at the same school for three years after concerns arose

An incompetent teacher, described by colleagues as perhaps the worst they had known, worked at the same school for more than three years after problems arose.

Gerald McGillion was struck off after the General Teaching Council for Scotland's disciplinary sub-committee heard that the physics teacher put pupils in danger, could not control classes and did not know his subject. After years of support at Dunfermline High in Fife, one of the only improvements was that he had learnt pupils' names, according to his former headteacher.

The 51-year-old, who did not attend the hearing in Edinburgh last week and had no legal representation, started at Bell Baxter High in Cupar after the summer of 2004.

He moved to Dunfermline High in January 2005 following a compulsory transfer, but principal physics teacher John Gibb became aware of problems after one or two weeks. Classes could be "dangerous" and the worst incident occurred when pupils unscrewed a door handle, so that the door no longer worked, and removed a metal bar, which was thrown at Mr McGillion.

But what most concerned Mr Gibb was the content of lessons: "He was teaching them wrong physics."

Beith High depute head William Webster, who was at Dunfermline High when Mr McGillion arrived, recalled an incident when he seemed oblivious to the fact that a boy in the front row had a polythene bag over his head.

Vivienne Snedden, a biology teacher asked to observe Mr McGillion, felt he did not do enough to stop a boy who was repeatedly hanging out of a window. She saw "very little work done by the majority of pupils".

Gordon Wowk, a former depute head who has retired, recalled that Mr McGillion had been given a lot of support, yet in a January 2008 classroom observation the lesson was "shambolic".

"He made very little, if any, sustained progress," Mr Wowk said. "I don't think he had the professional expertise or personal qualities to benefit from the support."

Mr McGillion "was a presence in the room - that's the best I could say of him"; Mr Wowk had "not come across anyone worse in my 31 years of teaching".

Witnesses said Mr McGillion had trained in the mid-1990s, gone back to university to do microelectronics, then taught in Yorkshire. He suffered from health problems - he had mentioned sociophobia, stress and marital issues - although witnesses were unsure of their exact nature.

Headteacher Brian Blanchflower joined the school in January 2007 and observed a lesson which was "from the pupils' perspective, a disaster", due to lack of planning and classroom management.

Mr McGillion, who had periods of absence and took small numbers of classes on returning, did make some minor improvements, such as learning pupils' names, Mr Blanchflower said.

Witnesses conceded he had some challenging pupils, but the headteacher recalled "there were things that went on in Mr McGillion's classroom that wouldn't go on in any other room in the school".

The sub-committee found Mr McGillion guilty of serious professional incompetence between April 1, 2005, and May 14, 2008. He had already been sacked by Fife Council. He must wait 12 months before applying for restoration to the GTCS register.


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