Teacher barred for harassment free to return

15th June 2007 at 01:00
GTC agrees to review policy on disclosure after TES inquiries raise headteachers' concerns

ACCORDING TO the General Teaching Council, Barry Derriscott should be allowed to teach again because he has expressed genuine remorse for sexually harassing four female colleagues.

But, according to Mr Derriscott, "90 per cent of the allegations were complete and utter bollocks" and his teaching prohibition was imposed by a "kangaroo court".

Mr Derriscott was an RE teacher at Pensby boys' high school in the Wirrall, Cheshire, when in 2003 he was accused of sexually harassing four women he worked with and talking about his sexual acts and preferences to pupils. He was suspended and soon resigned.

The GTC struck him from the teaching register in 2005. Karen Brown, chair of the disciplinary committee, cast doubt on his credibility and said he had a problematic attitude to women.

But this week, Mr Derriscott became the first teacher to win back a place on the teaching register after being struck off.

Enquiries by The TES immediately disclosed a wider issue: his prohibition order, and that of any other teacher who won back a place on the register, would not be disclosed to future employers.

Mr Derriscott would be identified merely as "registered" if a headteacher phoned the GTC to check his record. Disciplinary records are deleted from the council's website after three months.

By contrast, the General Medical Council has doctors' disciplinary decisions dating back to 2005 posted on its website, and provides a phone line for employers to check back further than that.

Since Sir Michael Bichard's inquiry into the Soham murders, the Government has been anxious to ensure thorough background checks on anyone who applies to work in a school.

On Wednesday afternoon, with headteachers' associations expressing concern, the GTC agreed to review its policy of non-disclosure.

"The Independent Barring Board will be coming into operation very shortly and the GTC now has a statutory duty to assess the suitability of people wanting to register as teachers," said Alan Meyrick, its registrar. "It is therefore the right moment for us to review our policy."

Mr Derriscott, despite being adamant that he was the victim of a conspiracy by the "coven" of women who he was found to have sexually harassed, was nonetheless realistic about his career prospects.

Some "enlightened" heads might be willing to employ him, he said, but he fancied his chances more in supply teaching.

In reinstating Mr Derriscott, the GTC said that it had been "particularly difficult" to confirm his good character, as he had provided no independent evidence or character witnesses.

He had accepted that he made gross errors of judgment and had failed to be aware of social norms, the committee said, and had expressed remorse at the impact on colleagues.

Later he told The TES: "I'm sure they saw from my eyes and the tone of my voice and my body language that I was speaking the truth. I am a truth seeker."

Mr Derriscott is looking forward to a return to work.

"I've got no problems with women at all. I like women a lot," he said.

"It's just a shame that you get a few who aren't too good for themselves, who don't have the education they really should have and maybe they shouldn't be in the jobs they are."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of HeadJTeachers, said it was important to strike a balance between protecting the careers of wrongly accused teachers and alerting schools to teachers who had been found guilty of misconduct.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said heads had a responsibility for pupils' safety. The rules should be changed so that potential employers could find out about GTC rulings.


Reprimand: kept on register for a fixed period of two years.

Conditional Registration Order: the teacher can remain on the register but must adhere to conditions.

Suspension Order: the teacher is suspended from the register and cannot work as a registered teacher for up to a maximum two years. At the end of the period they are automatically eligible to register again, as long as they have complied with any conditions.

Prohibition Order: the teacher's name is removed from the register and they cannot work as a registered teacher. The committee may allow them to reapply after no less than two years. The onus is on the teacher to put the case for restoration to a new hearing committee.

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