Swell of cyber support for lesson surfer

9th January 2009 at 00:00
Teacher disciplined over internet use in class speaks out on 'rough justice' of public hearing and longs to return to classroom

A teacher reprimanded for personal internet use during lesson time claims to have received over 600 messages of support from teachers in the UK and abroad, some of whom admit to using the internet in school.

Sian Mediana resigned and later appeared before a General Teaching Council for Wales tribunal after being accused of accessing websites such as Friends Reunited and eBay when she should have been teaching her special needs class at Fairwater Primary in Cardiff. She denied the claims, but the panel found her guilty of unprofessional conduct in November.

Speaking to TES Cymru, Ms Mediana, 40, said she has been comforted by "sympathetic" emails, most of which express disbelief that the case was made public. Many said they had also accessed websites during school time.

Ms Mediana, who lives in Ogmore Vale, near Bridgend, said she was left "devastated, angry and upset" by the public hearing. She believes her case should have remained within the school.

"I feel very strongly that I have been misjudged," she said. "I have lost the career I love and the children have lost a good teacher."

The GTCW panel, sitting in Cardiff, accepted evidence from two teaching assistants that Ms Mediana regularly visited shopping, banking and social networking websites during lessons.

Ms Mediana, rated a grade 1 by Estyn during an inspection, admitted using the internet for online banking outside teaching hours, but maintains the other allegations are untrue.

She said her performance would not have been rated so highly by the Welsh inspectorate if her attention had been constantly diverted.

"You simply can't pull off one good week for an inspection. The children I taught needed constant care and attention," she said. "If your back is turned - even for one moment - anything can happen."

Ms Mediana is also angry at reports that she spent hours on Facebook, something that was never mentioned at the hearing. She claims to have suffered abuse as a result, with one man shouting "Get off Facebook" at her in the street.

In a 12-year career, Ms Mediana taught at four primary schools in England and five in Wales.

In 1996, she sold her home and moved to the Philippines for a year, where she set up a numeracy and literacy school for 30 pupils.

Since resigning from Fairwater following the investigation into her internet use, Ms Mediana has been unable to find a permanent teaching post. "I should never have resigned," she said, "because I don't think I would have lost my job over this. I was told if I resigned it would all be over with."

She told TES Cymru she had lost faith in the GTCW as a result of the hearing, during which her guilt was decided through the civil test of balance of probability. "I expected them to deal in fact, not balance of probabilities," she said.

"I had absolute faith in the system; there was no doubt in my mind that this would be seen for what it was. I feel let down. The GTCW is focusing too much on disciplinary matters rather than supporting teachers in schools."

If Ms Mediana finds another teaching post, she will have to declare the registration order to her new employer and will be banned from using the internet in school.

She supports calls made by teachers' unions for clearer guidance on internet use in school.

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