Teacher who took therapist's advice to write 'tell all' memoir is in the clear

13th November 2009 at 00:00
Headteacher suspended her after being invited to read 'warts and all' account of school life

A teacher suspended after publishing a book criticising her school and colleagues and then presenting it to the headteacher has won her battle to be cleared of unprofessional conduct.

Sara Mitchell was advised to write about her negative experiences at work by her therapist after a period of illness, and published copies to give to friends and family.

She gave the 147-page volume to the school's new headteacher when he started work in order to explain her "protracted" absences, but this led to her being asked to leave her post and an investigation.

A General Teaching Council committee has now found Ms Mitchell, who worked at Mexborough School in South Yorkshire, not guilty of unprofessional conduct.

The book was called Just Let Me Teach. Ms Mitchell published eight copies through a company she found on the internet.

She had been absent from work intermittently from May 2007 until October 2008, when she gave the book to head Chris Coady. The GTC committee heard it contained "negative" views of her "personal experiences" and staff at the school.

She was told to write about the difficulties she had encountered at the school as part of her medical treatment. The book describes this, as well as the consequences of her illness and her efforts to get well.

It was published under a pen name, and Ms Mitchell did not name people because she did not want to upset them.

Mr Coady started as headteacher at the end of September and this made Ms Mitchell "concerned" about her position, and an application to cross the pay threshold.

She was worried he knew nothing of the events of the past 18 months and her illness, as she had not had a chance to explain this during their four meetings, or to tell him she was still on medication.

She went to deliver the book personally to him in October. On finding Mr Coady was not available, she put it in an envelope marked "private and confidential" and handed it to his secretary to give to him.

When he finally received Just Let Me Teach, Mr Coady asked another teacher to search through it for references to other members of staff. He then got advice before suspending Ms Mitchell. The GTC panel said he didn't take "sufficient regard" to the medical issues she raised in the book.

Ms Mitchell told the GTC she accepted in hindsight it was a "naive" act, and her judgment might have been impaired. In the statement she gave following her suspension, and in the interview during the investigation, she said any bad experiences at work were behind her.

In their judgment, the GTC committee said they accepted Ms Mitchell was only trying to bring her medical issues to Mr Coady's attention.

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