Swell of support for surfing teacher

9th January 2009 at 00:00
She claims some of her 600 sympathisers admit to using internet during school time; unions call for clearer guidelines

A teacher disciplined for making personal use of the internet during lesson time claims to have received more than 600 messages of support from colleagues in the UK and abroad, some of whom admit to doing the same thing.

Sian Mediana resigned from her job and a General Teaching Council for Wales tribunal later found her guilty of unprofessional conduct for 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,.

Speaking to The TES, Ms Mediana, 40, said she has been comforted by "sympathetic" emails, most of which express disbelief that the case has been 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 been kept within the school.

"I feel very strongly that I have been misjudged," she said. "I have lost the career I love and 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, given a grade 1 rating by Welsh schools inspectorate Estyn, admitted using the internet for online banking outside teaching hours, but denies the other allegations.

She said her performance would not have been rated so highly by Estyn 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 has taught at four primary schools in England and five in Wales.

In 1996, she moved to the Philippines for a year to set up a numeracy and literacy school.

Since resigning from Fairwater - a decision she now regrets - 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."

Ms Mediana said she had lost faith in the GTCW as a result of the hearing, in which her guilt was decided through the civil test of balance of probability. "I expected them to deal in fact," she said.

"The GTCW is focusing too much on disciplinary matters rather than supporting teachers in schools."

Ms Mediana will have to declare the registration order to any future employers and will be banned from internet use in school.

She supports calls from teaching unions for clearer guidance over web access after the hearing.

"I hope there's somebody out there who realises that I haven't done anything different from what most teachers would do," she said. "There will be teachers out there thinking: 'There but for the grace of God'."

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