Teacher assaulted by flying banana

By Roddy AshworthA TEACHER who claimed being struck by a flying banana in his classroom was an act of criminal assault has criticised the school's headteacher for failing to warn him about a disruptive pupil.

By Roddy Ashworth

A TEACHER who claimed being struck by a flying banana in his classroom was an act of criminal assault has criticised the school's headteacher for failing to warn him about a disruptive pupil.

Ed Phelan, who was teaching RE at the St Helena School in Colchester, said he believed the case was evidence of the “appalling” conditions teachers are now expected to work under.

Supply teacher Mr Phelan alleged a year nine student at the secondary school threw the banana at him as he was reading the register in class, striking him on the side of the head.


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He said the fruit stained his suit and his head ached for some hours after the hard, ripe fruit hit him in November last year.

Mr Phelan, 31, reported the matter both to the school and to the police, but said he was disappointed with the response.

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“The police did what they could, but they are limited in their powers. The school, however, were appalling,” he said.

“Their attitude was it was part and parcel of teaching. To be honest, my union was not much better. Their attitude was because I was not injured, it did not matter.”

Mr Phelan, who now teaches at a school in Epping, alleged St Helena School had failed in its duty of care by not warning him of the 14-year-old's potential bad behaviour.

“I feel absolutely let down. If I had retaliated, you can imagine what the reaction would have been,” he said.

“But the result seems to have been 'Well, you're only a teacher - it's not important.' The attitude in education is very limp-wristed.”

Clive Waddington, headteacher of St Helena School, said the matter had been dealt with at the school and the pupil had been punished appropriately.

“Immediately after this happened Mr Phelan sent for help. Two or three senior staff went out and removed the student from the scene,” he added.

“He was punished and soon after, on a totting up process, when he misbehaved again he was excluded and his parents contacted. He was readmitted around a week later and given a final warning.”

Mr Waddington said there was no reason to warn Mr Phelan the pupil could be violent towards teachers because he had never been before.

“There was, prior to that event, no evidence this pupil was violent towards teachers in any way. There was nothing to warn Mr Phelan about,” he added.

“The misbehaviour the pupil had been responsible for was disruption in class, but not violence or threats of violence towards teachers.

“This was a very regrettable incident, but I don't regard it as an assault. I am very sorry it happened. We paid Mr Phelan's dry cleaning bill for his suit. It was unfortunate this occurred, but we have now dealt with it.”

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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