Claims against teacher 'unsubstantiated'

A PAGAN teacher has been given the all clear to go back into the classroom after the Government ruled allegations of improper conduct against him could not be substantiated.

A PAGAN teacher has been given the all clear to go back into the classroom after the Government ruled allegations of improper conduct against him could not be substantiated.

Ralph Morse, from Colchester, had been accused of indecently assaulting a teenage pupil while working at a school in south Essex.

Despite having his name cleared when a charge against him was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, the 49-year-old says he has been through a "living nightmare" for the past two years while awaiting the green light to get back into education.

He has finally been given the go-ahead to apply for teaching jobs again after the Department for Education and Skills ruled in his favour.

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But Mr Morse feels as though he has been left in limbo after Essex County Council said the Government's announcement had "no bearing" on the decision to dismiss him in March 2003 for "improper bodily conduct and improper use of language".

Mr Morse has been given the backing of his MP, Bob Russell, who recently wrote to him saying: "You have been wronged, and natural justice has been denied you."

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He has also received the support of some of his former teaching colleagues.

Speaking from his home, Mr Morse said he felt his background as a Pagan had affected the way he had been dealt with throughout the proceedings.

The head of drama first hit the headlines when it was revealed he was youth officer of the Pagan Federation in 2000, which led to his suspension by the school while the issue was investigated.

He was fully reinstated after it found no evidence of him using his position to influence students.

He said: "I am only one teacher who has been in this position, there are thousands of others.

"I think there has been a substantial increase in the number of allegations made against teachers, but not an increase in the number of people found guilty.

"There are going to be cases where somebody seriously abuses a child and we cannot let that happen, but there has to be safeguards in place and it is a case of finding a balance.

"In a way, I wish I had gone on trial, because in my view a barrister could have ripped the case apart and my name would have been cleared formally.

"Anybody getting into a profession such as teaching, social work or medicine, needs to, at the back of their mind, be aware at some point in their career that all their hard work and dedication, all their commitment and value to society can be stripped away by an individual with a grievance."

Mr Morse is determined that some good can come from his troubles and called for independent outside bodies to investigate such cases.

As he approaches his 50th birthday, Mr Morse has taken a job within the security industry and become involved in voluntary work whilst he considers his long-term options.

He has not ruled out a return to the classroom, but realises his past will affect his future chances.

"Whilst this is languishing over me, I cannot se why an educational employer would want to employ me.

"Once something has been said about you, that can never be taken back and it does not matter what happens, you cannot stop people thinking what they will. The damage is done."

The letter from the Department for Education and Skills said: "The Secretary of State takes the view that, on the basis of the information put before her, it is not possible to conclude that the allegations can be regarded as substantiated.

"Therefore, she has decided that she will not, on this occasion, take any action under section 142 of the Education Act 2002 which empowers her to bar or restrict a person's employment as a teacher or worker with young children on grounds of misconduct."

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council confirmed it stood by the decision to dismiss Mr Morse.

She said: "The letter from the DfES has no bearing on the decision made two years with regard to the dismissal of Mr Morse from Shenfield High School.

"It is purely confirmation that the allegations were not considered serious enough by the Secretary of State for Education to bar him from teaching in the future."

No one was available from Shenfield High School last night.

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