Teacher who let pupils use iPods in her class is struck off for a year

A TEACHER who was unable to control her classes and allowed pupils to listen to their iPods during a lesson has been struck off for “serious professional incompetence”.

Suzanne Harwood, a former English teacher at Aberdeen’s Hazelhead Academy, was removed from the teaching register following a hearing of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s disciplinary sub-committee (GTCS).

She becomes only the seventh teacher to be struck off for incompetence since new legislation was introduced by the GTCS in 2006.

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The committee heard Miss Harwood failed to maintain order and discipline, repeatedly allowing “high noise levels” and “disruption” in her classes.

On one occasion in March 2010, the teacher broke school rules by allowing pupils to listen to their iPods in class, while in May last year she allowed a female pupil to spend part of a lesson cleaning her shoes.

In a further incident, an inspection found that pupils in two of Miss Harwood’s classes had submitted exactly the same essay, suggesting it had been dictated by the teacher. Despite this, the pupils all had different grades for their essays, with one student gaining a level D, while others received a level E.

In its ruling, the GTCS said Miss Harwood’s “level of incompetence” was “fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher”.

It said: “You have failed to maintain an adequate level of order and discipline in the classroom and in taking control of your classes. This failure has allowed high noise levels and repeated disruption to occur in your classes which have been frequently out of control.

“You have failed to manage pupil behaviour, consistently leading to some pupils being cautioned for minor incidents while others display challenging behaviour and are not spoken to.”

It concluded: “Removal from the register is proportionate and necessary because of the nature, extent and severity of Miss Harwood’s departure from the standards set down in the SFR [Standard for Full Registration]. ‘

“To make no order was inappropriate – the respondent’s level of incompetence is fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher and the sub-committee was also mindful of the need to protect children in the classroom and relevant colleagues.

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“Public confidence in teachers and the teaching profession would be undermined if the respondent were not removed from the register.”

The committee said the teacher should be prohibited from applying to re-register for a year.

The power to strike off bad teachers was granted to the GTCS in 2006 in a move aimed at preventing teachers sacked for incompetence from moving to another council area to work. Previously, teachers could only be struck off for misconduct, not for simply being bad at the job.

Responding to Miss Harwood’s case, an Aberdeen City spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on individual staff and that includes staff no longer employed by the council.”