Tally-ho teachers vow to carry on

1st October 2004 at 01:00
There are fox-hunters in the staffroom who are prepared to break the law to follow their passion. Simeon Brody reports.

State-school teachers John Chapman and Richard Brown are divided over whether to defy the Government's proposed hunting ban - and put their jobs at risk.

Mr Chapman, a 52-year-old technology teacher at Buxton community school, in Derbyshire, owns a pack of five terriers and believes hunting with dogs is the best way to cull foxes.

He would consider breaking the law. "I keep asking myself - could I teach with a criminal record? I would have to think carefully about flouting the ban, but if push came to shove, maybe I would."

Richard Brown, 34, an English teacher at the school, is another huntsman, but he said he would not break the law as teachers should set an example to pupils.

Both said, however, that teachers who hunted were representative of the community in a rural area such as their own. "Let's dispel the myth that the teaching profession is full of people who don't hunt and everyone is anti-hunting," said Mr Chapman, "because that certainly is not the case."

Teachers have to undergo criminal record checks, and convictions could result in loss of employment. Government guidance says employers should consider the nature of any offence committed and how often and how long ago it took place.

A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said schools would have to decide what action to take.

Alan Kelly, head of Buxton community school, said he did not know enough about the hypothetical repercussions of flouting a hunting ban to say how the school would react. But he said: "I genuinely feel that what teachers do in their own time is their own business."

For Franki Scales, a 38-year-old PE and technology teacher at Ashdell prep school, Sheffield, who has hunted since she was a child, there is no dilemma. She has signed a declaration by campaigners pledging to continue hunting if a ban is introduced.

She said: "I would have to weigh it up very carefully but I have signed the hunting declaration and I would be prepared to carry on hunting even if it led to a criminal conviction or problems with my job."

Just four private schools have dogs for hunting and must decide what to do with them following a ban because the animals cannot be domesticated.

Eton college, in Windsor, Stowe school in Buckingham, Radley college in Abingdon, and Marlborough college in Marlborough keep beagles for hunting hares.

Phillip Kennedy, Stowe's kennel huntsman, said the school would not flout the ban but he hoped it would keep its 60 beagles until they died naturally. He said it would be hard on the dogs because they were bred to hunt, and the 25 pupils who took part in the twice-weekly hunts would be "heart-broken".

Andrew Robinson, Eton's beagle master, said it had not yet considered the future of its 60 hounds.

Heads at Radley and Marlborough could not be contacted.

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