Teacher blames stress for failing his students

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Head of media studies left classroom in 'disarray', General Teaching Council for England is told. Emma Jeffares reports

A DIABETIC teacher has said that he failed to mark coursework and called his pupils "morons" because he was depressed and ill.

Clive Smith appeared before the General Teaching Council for England last week facing charges of failing to mark exam papers correctly, not processing his budget properly and of speaking disrespectfully to students.

The 52-year-old was suspended from his post as head of media studies at Lindsey community arts college, Cleethorpes, Humberside, in June 2001.

David Walsh, headteacher, told the GTCE he had become aware of problems with Mr Smith when parents complained that their children had to re-do coursework.

He said Mr Smith's classroom was in "disarray" and coursework which should have been submitted to the exam board was still in the school.

Mr Smith, who had worked at the school since 1989, then delayed submitting the coursework forms to the board, thus "compromising the grades of his students".

The GTCE committee heard that several student record cards had disappeared from Mr Smith's locked classroom over the 2001 May bank holiday. They were reported to the police as stolen, a claim which Mr Walsh suggested was "highly implausible".

Mr Smith blamed other teachers, claiming he was being victimised. He told the hearing in Birmingham last week: "A number of teachers could have done it to make my life difficult - I was not very popular."

He said the school had become an "unhappy place to work" after he finished a six-year relationship with a member of staff, and other teachers had turned against him.

Students told Ken Thorpe, deputy head, that Mr Smith often belittled them, calling them morons. Mr Smith accepted he had referred to his students as morons, although only in situations were he thought pupils were displaying "moronic behaviour".

Mr Smith told the hearing that he had been under a lot of pressure because he was the only specialist media teacher in a school of 1,500 pupils. He said his stress levels had aggravated his diabetes and he had let some of his duties slip to allow himself to "focus on the teaching of the children, which was the most important thing".

He told the committee that at one point, when faced with the allegations against him, he had "physically broken down" in front of a fellow teacher.

At an earlier appeal to the school's disciplinary committee, all counts against Mr Smith were proven.

Mr Smith, who now teaches at St Robert of Newminster school, Washington, Sunderland, said: "I very much enjoy the new school and support from them has been very welcome."

The hearing was adjourned for the GTCE to make its decision.

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