'Sick' day spent in second school

20th December 2002 at 00:00
GTC accepts post-natal depression at root of teacher's actions, reports Becky Sharp

AN English teacher who skipped classes at one school to teach at another has been reprimanded but can continue teaching, a disciplinary panel has ruled.

Alison Boon, 33, was already contracted to teach Mondays at Fort Hill community school in Basingstoke, Hampshire, when she agreed to teach at Trinity school and performing arts college in Newbury, Berkshire, on the same day.

At a General Teaching Council for England hearing Mrs Boon said she had been suffering from post-natal depression at the time. "I had absolutely no idea what I was doing," she said.

Presenting officer Sarah Page told the committee that Mrs Boon joined Fort Hill under her father's name, Johnston, in September 1999 as a newly-qualified full-time teacher, before changing to part-time when she became pregnant a year later.

After a recruitment fair in December 2001 she was offered a part-time job at Trinity, which required her to work while she was contracted to teach at Fort Hill.

Ms Page said: "Mrs Boon knowingly, deliberately and dishonestly entered into a conflicting contract. She would have to be in two places at the same time."

Keith Fry, former head of Fort Hill, said Mrs Boon's husband, the Rev Nigel Boon, telephoned the school on January 14, 2002, to say she was ill.

Mr Fry then received a call from David Wheen, school manager of Trinity, asking for a reference.

"Mr Wheen told me that Alison was teaching at the school, when all the time she was off sick at Fort Hill," he said.

Mr Boon told the hearing that when he phoned Mr Fry he had no idea his wife was going to teach at Trinity instead of Fort Hill. "She was in a terrible state that morning and ran out the house."

In her evidence Mrs Boon said she had applied for another job because she "would rather be anywhere other than Fort Hill".

She said: "When I started I felt I was a valued member of staff. But when I told them I was pregnant things seemed to change. I was queried about sitting down to teach, and my timetable was changed."

Mrs Boon was given a verbal warning after some of her GCSE students had coursework similarities - she said five students had copied essay plans she used.

The committee heard Mrs Boon was diagnosed with post-natal depression and was suffering from acute stress when she applied for the other job.

"I remember thinking how good it would be to work somewhere else," she said. "It was a chance to start somewhere else where I did not feel under scrutiny."

Chair of the panel Carole Regan said: "The facts do amount to unacceptable professional conduct. We have, however, noted Mrs Boon's frank acceptance of her wrong-doing, and that she was suffering from post-natal depression at all relevant times.

"It was an isolated episode, and we will conclude this case with a reprimand."

After the hearing, Barbara Wynn, head of the Willink school, Berkshire, where Mrs Boon is now working, said: "We've been delighted with Mrs Boon's work and have asked her to take on additional hours and responsibilities from January."

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