Teacher found guilty of conduct charge

A DRAMA teacher found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct has broken her silence and told the EADT that she will never to return to teaching in a school.

By Richard Smith

A DRAMA teacher found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct has broken her silence and told the EADT that she will never to return to teaching in a school.

A panel of the General Teaching Council (GTC) ruled yesterday that former Kesgrave High School teacher Jo Bowen, of Alpe Street, Ipswich, was guilty of the conduct allegation, which included claims that she allowed students to drink to excess during post-play parties.

But, speaking to the media for the first time last night Ms Bowen said she was devastated by the allegations and would never teach in a school again because she felt she had been betrayed.

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Months before the allegation Ms Bowen claims she was praised by her head teacher George Thomas who wrote in her threshold assessment: “Jo is rightly seen as an exemplary drama teacher in Suffolk.”

Ms Bowen, 36, who has been doing freelance teaching since the allegations surfaced, said: “I will not work in a school as a teacher because I feel I have been severely let down and betrayed. I will continue freelance teaching.

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“I am so sad. I was good at what I did but I will not go back. I had an excellent record at Kesgrave and my GCSE results I think almost the entire time were consistently among the highest in the county and there were excellent A level results.

“There were no complaints official or unofficial from the parents at all - I loved my job, I was an excellent teacher and the comments from teachers and ex-pupils backed that up.''

The GTC found she had failed to keep accounts for a school play and failed to ensure the correct syllabus was taught to students.

It also proved she organised parties when she allowed herself and students to drink to excess - one colleague told the tribunal she was seen vomiting and passed out during one such gathering, claims Ms Bowen last night denied.

Ms Bowen, who was employed at the school between September 1996 and October 2003 and formerly taught at Westbourne High School, Ipswich, accepted that she falsified pupil's examination work by forging their signatures on authentification sheets and by submitting fabricated coursework on behalf of a student to the examination board.

Giving its ruling, the panel said a disciplinary sanction was required. “The committee feels that the allegations found to be proved were serious, and that Ms Bowen failed to show sufficient insight into the appropriateness of her actions.

“Moreover this case does not involve an isolated incident but represents a series of incidents of varying levels of seriousness,'' it said.

She was given a conditional registration order. This means she will still be able to teach and be registered with the GTC as long as she meets the conditions which have been set by the panel.

She will have to provide evidence that she has attended a course relating to the consequences of alcohol abuse among pupils within six months of taking up any future teaching post.

The order also bars Ms Bowen, a former head of department, from holding a senior position in a school until she has successfully completed a management course.

The committee cleared Ms Bowen of two further counts of misconduct: that she exhibited consistent inappropriate behaviour with sixth form students and that she behaved in a harassing and bullying way towards colleagues in the drama department.

The decision, announced at the GTC's offices in Birmingham, follows a hearing in the city in December which heard allegations that Ms Bowen passed out after a party to celebrate a 2002 production of Romeo and Juliet.

Deputy headteacher Nigel Burgoyne told the hearing that Ms Bowen had organised a party after the production and allowed herself and sixth form pupils to drink to excess. She was later observed in the toilets vomiting and subsequently passed out, Mr Burgoyne added.

Drama teacher Stuart Race revealed drinking had also taken place after a production of Grease in 2001. Headteacher George Thomas ordered Mr Burgoyne to start an investigation into the allegations in September 2003.

In her defence, Ms Bowen told the committee that when she first learned of the allegations she was totally shocked.

Referring to the festivities which followed the performance of Romeo and Juliet, she said: “I was only a guest at the party, I was not responsible for their drinking.”

After the hearing, Mr Burgoyne said: “The reprimand is clear in that she was guilty of several counts of unacceptable behaviour. I think it is very much in the past for us. I think we are just pleased that the inappropriate behaviour has been addressed. We are happy with our proceedings and what we did.”

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