Struck off teacher’s classroom ‘was battleground’

AN INCOMPETENT maths teacher whose classroom was described as a “battleground” has been struck off, following a lengthy legal battle.
Janet Garner has been struck off after being branded incompetent. Picture: DeadlineJanet Garner has been struck off after being branded incompetent. Picture: Deadline
Janet Garner has been struck off after being branded incompetent. Picture: Deadline

Janet Garner was removed from the teaching register after a hearing that lasted three months, during which it emerged an entire top-set maths class had failed a test while under her guidance.

Mrs Garner, who taught at Alva and Alloa academies in Clackmannanshire, was struck off in 2011, but that decision was overturned after a court ruled the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) had not properly proved the allegations.

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The teacher faced a string of charges relating to rules on teacher competence, with witnesses claiming she made basic errors and repeatedly failed to control unruly classes.

Case presenter Joyce Cullen said that, in February 2004, test results for Mrs Garner’s S3 class at Alva Academy were so poor that the “whole class of credit-level pupils failed overall”.

On another occasion, Alloa’s deputy head was observing a lesson in which Mrs Garner made a “basic mathematical error”.

Stuart Rycroft, a former deputy head at Alva Academy, said he had never had a teacher who had attracted so many complaints, and who needed as much assistance as Mrs Garner.

He told the hearing in Edinburgh: “I hadn’t previously had any experience of so many parental complaints against a single member of staff. I have never even had a probationary teacher who needed so much assistance as Mrs Garner.”

Mr Rycroft added: “My initial thought was that I would sit in the class and help to try to create a calmer atmosphere, but it was quite clear that the classroom had become a battleground.”

At a hearing in 2011, Mrs Garner was told by the GTCS that she would be removed from the teaching register, as it had concluded that she “simply could not teach”.

However, after winning an appeal against the decision at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Mrs Garner was never officially struck off. The teacher, who represented herself at the hearing, denied all the charges.

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Allegations that “safety was a real concern” in her classes were not found proved by the panel.

Mrs Garner questioned Mr Rycroft’s attempts to help her, claiming that he and another teacher had not followed school policy when taking action against misbehaving pupils.

She also claimed that Mr Rycroft and the senior management team at Alva Academy failed to follow up on pupils who had received referrals for misbehaving.

Mrs Garner also asked Mr Rycroft: “Is it not the case that if I was incompetent it would have been evident in the attainment of my class and you would have been aware?”

In response, Mr Rycroft said he would not know as he was no longer responsible for the maths department after 2005.

Announcing the decision to strike the teacher off, GTCS panel convener Forbes Mitchell said: “It was the panel’s judgment that the respondent has fallen significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.”

A spokeswoman for Clackmannanshire Council said: “We can confirm that this teacher was dismissed from Clackmannanshire Council in 2007.”

250 exam takers caught cheating

Nearly 250 cases of pupils caught cheating in exams by colluding, plagiarising and smuggling in mobile phones have been recorded in the past year.

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Figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for the 2013 exam season show offences also included taking notes into tests.

In total, 249 cases of “malpractice” were recorded, with 143 of those awarded a mark of zero for the exam. Warnings with no further action were given in 56 cases, while 50 resulted in a warning and the candidate losing their right to appeal.

The overall number of cases was lower than the 324 recorded the previous year.

Eric Martinez, SQA director of operations, said: “While we are pleased that the tiny minority of pupils engaging in malpractice has declined in 2013, every case of malpractice is unacceptable.

“SQA continues to work in partnership with schools and colleges and the teaching profession, to ensure that the zero-tolerance approach to malpractice is applied everywhere and every time.”