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Year ban for reign of fear

A teacher who created a "climate of fear" in class and left pupils and colleagues in tears because of her rude behaviour has been suspended from teaching for a year.

Denise Watts was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by a discplinary committee of England's General Teaching Council. Her misdemeanours ranged from making her teaching assistant work in the corridor to calling a new pupil "doggy" and suggesting that children smelled.

Miss Watts was dismissed from Chesswood middle school in Worthing, West Sussex, for gross misconduct after numerous complaints from staff and parents.

Witnesses said she frequently referred to pupils in a demeaning way, even telling the deputy head in front of her class to take a disruptive pupil to the rubbish dump because "that's all he is good for".

The Year 5 teacher's behaviour left pupils afraid and staff "treading on egg shells" during her time at the school from September 2001 to December 2003.

David Newnham, the headteacher, said: "She made her class anxious and distressed and she made pupils who did not usually get upset burst into tears. Pupils were left fearful and afraid and this affected their education."

Her attitude also led to a break-down in staff relations. "Two members of staff left the school and cited Miss Watts's behaviour as a factor," Mr Newnham said.

"She turned her back on me in a meeting and muttered under her breath. This made me feel uneasy and embarrassed.

"Her attitude and reluctance was unprofessional and damaging."

Denis Mitchell, the deputy head, who used to take Miss Watts to and from school each day, said: "She had a lack of understanding and sympathy with those from different socio-economic backgrounds."

Miss Watts, who was not at the hearing and no longer intends to teach, claimed in a statement that she was victim of a witch-hunt.

The committee ruled that she would need to complete training in equal opportunities, behaviour management and teamwork before her suspension could be lifted.

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