Sunday, 20 April 2008

Success

Like so many others, I have attributed the poem "Success" to Ralph Waldo Emerson. It would seem, from the many e-mails that I have received, that I am mistaken.

"Success" was written as the winning entry in a contest run by the Brown Book Magazine, Boston in 1904 and "Bessie" Stanley won a cash prize of $250. Her poem was included in Bartlett's Book of Quotations for decades until they removed it in the 1960s.



He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.


Elisabeth Anne “Bessie” Anderson Stanley (1904)



“I wish you success in your fight and struggle. I hope that you might achieve better success than I have done and that my words, advice and humour can provide you with some support and inspiration.”

“Like the "Starfish Thrower" and the ethos of the poem "Success"; if I have helped just one person then I have succeeded.”

“Good luck and ‘Don’t Quit’ - ever !”

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Good Advice

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

False allegations against teachers are commonplace and it can happen to you or maybe one of your colleagues. You need to protect yourself today to minimize your own risk and to appreciate the full magnitude of the consequential impact on you, your life and that of your family.
  • Be prepared - get a copy of your school’s disciplinary procedures.
    (Ref. ‘Be Prepared’)
  • Minimize risk - adopt the ‘two deep leadership rule’.
    (Ref. ‘It Can Happen To You’)

If you think that you are being bullied :
(Ref. ‘My Head’s A Bully’)
  • At any meetings, take a representative with you.
    (If you find yourself in a one-one meeting, then insist that the meeting be adjourned until you can be accompanied - it is your legal right.)
  • Keep a diarized account of any incidents and note any witnesses names.
  • File any documentation that might relate to an incident.
  • Do not make my mistake - If you recognize or think that you are being bullied, then address the problem. Speak with your union or seek independent legal advice.
If an allegation is made against you :
  • At any meetings, take a representative with you.
  • Until advised by either a union representative or solicitor, do not make a statement - say nothing.
  • Do not discuss the allegation with colleagues - they could betray you.
  • Contact your union as soon as possible.
  • Document everything that you can recollect about the events that relate to the period of the allegation.
    (Provide your representative with a signed and dated copy.)
  • Seek independent legal advice / opinion.
  • Write a daily diarized journal of events / feelings - it is more than a good therapy and can provide a useful record that might help your defence.
  • Your health and that of your family will be impacted. Eat well and look after yourself. Tell your GP, he will be able to help and provide advice.
  • Maintain a useful and productive routine.
  • Learn to relax – the process is slow. Months can elapse without any progress / developments.
  • Don’t quit – remember that you are defending your life and your fundamental rights.
Refer to the article in Horror Stories’ - ‘How you can protect yourself against such harmful claims’.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Certified Honest

I received my polygraph examination documentation in this morning’s post. I am now certified honest and truthful !


There is now a stronger hope for my appeal – maybe someone will now believe my account with more credulity than before ... at least it is new evidence that can be presented.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Nothing But The Truth

“I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

English / Welsh Oath

The face says it all - I passed !

As arranged, Don Cargill arrived at my home at 3 o’clock. We sat over a coffee whilst Don talked about his life, qualifications and the many cases that he had handled. He highlighted his recent work with Michael Shields and the support that he had received from Rt. Hon. Jack Straw M.P., Secretary of State for Justice.

After a while, he assembled the polygraph equipment and explained the purpose of each component – the pneumographs, skin galvanic sensors and the cardiosphygmograph. Later he showed me examples of polygraph results, including Michael Shields’ test graphs.

For the next hour or so, we discussed the allegations that had been made against me. A typical polygraph test comprises three questions that will be examined and a range of other unrelated control questions for reference purposes.

In the end, the three questions were :
  • “Did you smack the girl on the hand on 26 September 2007 ?”
  • “Have you ever purposely hurt any child whilst working at your school ?”
  • “Were you sitting on a child’s green chair when the alleged smack on the girl took place ?”
Don then wired me with all of the polygraph sensors. After some preliminary tests / questions and calibration, everything was ready for my examination to start.

I was so apprehensive and scared. I can not describe my sense of anxiety ... it is the same feeling that you might experience when passing through the ‘Green Channel’ at an airport customs when you have nothing to declare; but this was much more intense.

He asked me to try to relax and to look directly ahead through the window as he began his questions. He asked me a total of six questions and this sequence was repeated three times.

After what seemed an eternity, he looked over at me and told me that I had answered truthfully to all questions.

He then showed me the graphs of my tests and how he had interpreted the various traces.

By this time, I was just so elated to know that I had proved my innocence – I HAD PASSED !



Example LX4000 Polygraph Traces
by courtesy of Lafayette Instrument Company



LX4000 Polygraph Components
by courtesy of Lafayette Instrument Company

The modern polygraph uses specialist software, LXSoftware (LX4000) & PolyScore, on a conventional Windows™ PC or laptop computer. Relative physiological changes within the examinee’s body are monitored by the following polygraph attachments :
  • Respiratory Rate : Two rubber tubes filled with air, called pneumographs, are placed around the examinee’s chest and abdomen. When the chest or abdominal muscles expand, the air inside the tubes is displaced. The digital or computerized polygraph employs transducers to convert the energy of the displaced air into electronic signals.

  • Galvanic Skin Resistance : This is also called electro-dermal activity and is basically a measure of sweat on your fingertips. The fingertips are one of the most porous areas on the body and therefore are a good place to look for sweat. The theory is we sweat more when we are placed under stress. Fingerplates, called galvanometers, are attached to two of the examinee’s fingers. These plates measure the skin’s ability to conduct electricity. When the skin is hydrated (as with sweat), it conducts electricity much more easily that when it is dry.

  • Blood Pressure / Heart Rate : A blood pressure cuff, called a cardiosphygmograph, is placed around the examinee’s upper arm. Tubing runs from the cuff to the polygraph. Again, in digital or computerized polygraphs, these changes are converted into electrical signals by transducers.
There are other components that a polygraph examiner might use, including a specialist chair, video camera and a range of sensor pads to detect countermeasures that might otherwise compromise the polygraph test results.

The polygraph examination involves three phases : The pre-test phase, the data collection phase and the data analysis phase.

In the pre-test phase the polygraph examiner will complete the required paperwork and then familiarize the examinee with the testing procedure and the polygraph instrument. He will spend most of the pre-test phase discussing the issue for the polygraph test. Before the examinee is attached to the polygraph instrument the examiner will review each polygraph test question with him, word for word. There are no surprise or trick test questions.

During the data collection phase the examiner will administer the polygraph test and collect a number of polygraph charts depicting physiological changes occurring with the examinee’s body as the examiner reads each test question and the examinee answers “yes” or “no”.

During the data analysis phase, the examiner will carefully review and score each chart in order to render an opinion as to the truthfulness of the examinee’s answers. The opinion rendered will be one of the following : NO DECEPTION INDICATED meaning the examinee answered the relevant questions truthfully, DECEPTION INDICATED meaning the examinee did not tell the truth to the relevant test questions or sometimes the opinion is inconclusive when the examiner is unable to determine truth or deception from the examinee’s polygraph charts due to abnormal and / or inconsistent physiological reactions.



The main supplier of polygraph systems and accessories is an American company, Lafayette Instrument Company, based in Lafayette, Indiana. The company was established in 1947 by Max Wastl.

Lafayette Instrument Company : www.lafayettepolygraph.com

Another polygraph systems supplier, again American, is :

Limestone Technologies : www.limestonetech.com



During my examination, I was asked to deliberately lie by reading from a prewritten script. It got very confusing as I had not appreciated that the lie was implicit in the script and I kept adding mine.

I came across this transcription involving an American witness who also suffered similar confusion whilst attempting to swear an oath :
Clerk:Please repeat after me : “I swear by Almighty God ...”
Witness:I swear by Almighty God.
Clerk:That the evidence that I give ...
Witness:That’s right.
Clerk:Repeat it.
Witness:Repeat it.
Clerk:No ! Repeat what I said.
Witness:What you said when ?
Clerk:“That the evidence that I give ...”
Witness:That the evidence that I give.
Clerk:Shall be the truth and ...
Witness:It will, and nothing but the truth !
Clerk:Please, just repeat after me : “Shall be the truth and ...”
Witness:I’m not a scholar, you know !
Clerk:We can appreciate that. Just repeat after me : “Shall be the truth and ...”
Witness: Shall be the truth and.
Clerk:Say : “Nothing”.
Witness:Okay. (Witness remains silent)
Clerk:No ! Don’t say nothing. Say : “Nothing but the truth ...”
Witness:Yes.
Clerk:Can’t you say : “Nothing but the truth ...” ?
Witness:Yes.
Clerk:Well ? Do so.
Witness:You’re confusing me.
Clerk:Just say : “Nothing but the truth ...”. Yes ?
Witness:Okay. I understand.
Clerk:Then say it.
Witness:What ?
Clerk:“Nothing but the truth ...”
Witness:But I do ! That’s just it.
Clerk:You must say : “Nothing but the truth...”
Witness:I WILL say nothing but the truth !
Clerk:Please, just repeat these four words : “Nothing”, “But”, “The”, “Truth”.
Witness:What ? You mean, like, now ?
Clerk:Yes ! Now. Please. Just say those four words.
Witness:Nothing. But. The. Truth.
Clerk:Thank you.
Witness:I’m just not a scholar.



I felt elated at the end of the day. I had been so apprehensive about my test. It had been more stressful and demanding than I had expected and it had been worse than the police interview last October. I had passed and, for the first time in months, I had new hope and a sense of contentment.

I thought that you might like to share my rekindled sense of fun with another courtroom transcription :
Lawyer:Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse ?
Witness:No.
Lawyer:Did you check for blood pressure ?
Witness:No.
Lawyer:Did you check for breathing ?
Witness:No.
Lawyer:So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy ?
Witness:No.
Lawyer:How can you be so sure, Doctor ?
Witness:Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Lawyer:But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless ?
Witness:It is possible that he could have been alive and practising law somewhere.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Detecting Deception

NADAC is the largest privately owned polygraph company in the United Kingdom, with offices based in London and Manchester. In addition NADAC provides polygraph services throughout the UK and on an international basis.

The founding directors Cargill & Penner are the official polygraph lie detection experts for the Trisha Goddard show on Channel Five.

They specialize in providing highly confidential polygraph testing for the corporate sector, government and private individuals.

Their examiners use the latest state of the art computerized instruments and are fully conversant with the most up to date techniques.

NADAC’s managing director, Don Cargill, is the current chairman of the prestigious British and European Polygraph Association (BEPA) as well as being a member of the American Polygraph Association (APA).

Nadia Penner is also a board director of the BEPA and a member of the APA.



I had been struggling with the thought of my appeal. There was no new evidence that could be presented and the format for the appeal would be the same as that of the disciplinary hearing. There were two witnesses who were lying and their testimonies had remained solid. It was clear that I needed something ‘out-of-the-box’ otherwise the outcome was going to be another sham.

My partner had suggested taking a polygraph test but my solicitor was not supportive. I mulled the idea over and searched for information about ‘lie-detection’ ... there are only a few British agencies that provide this service.

I was cynical of the idea and its value until I called Don Cargill at NADAC this afternoon. He exuded confidence and enthusiasm for his specialist field, citing many recent examples of the scope his work. These included the high profile case of Michael Shields, the football supporter who is serving a 10 year sentence for the attempted murder of Bulgarian barman, Martin Georgiev in 2005.

Don explained that much of his work was now sanctioned by government and that the validity and acceptance of polygraph tests by the British justice systems was progressing.

I felt an immediate rapport with Don. He was understanding and empathetic of my plight, and he kindly offered to personally present his findings at my appeal. He agreed to see me at my home on Sunday afternoon. I came off the telephone with a new sense of hope and optimism that my appeal would have a new dimension and that I might just win my case !

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Pinocchio Effect

Scientists at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found that when you lie, chemicals known as catecholamines are released causing tissue inside the nose to swell. They used special imaging cameras to monitor blood flow in the body to show that lying causes an increase in blood pressure. This technology indicated that the human nose actually expands with blood during lying and is known as ‘The Pinocchio Effect’. The effect can induce mild irritation and a liar may rub their nose to satisfy the physical itch.



In English medieval courts, truth was tested by ordeals of fire and water, on the basis a truthful person would be protected by God.

Someone suspected of lying would have to carry a red-hot iron bar for nine paces. Alternatively he could opt to walk across nine red-hot ploughshares.

Either way, if the suspect was burned then this was proof that he was lying and so could be promptly hung.

Other courts went in for trial by water. In the ultimate ‘no-win’ situation, the person accused of lying was bound and thrown into a pond. If the accused sank this showed he was innocent but he might well drown anyway. If he floated this was taken as proof that he was lying and he would be hanged.

(The above techniques would be applicable and beneficial to at least two witnesses in my case !)

By the 1600s the idea arose that the truth of any statement could be arrived at by the means of detailed questioning and the application of scientific and logical reasoning to what was being said.

Modern legal conventions of cross-examination and the presumption that somebody is telling the truth unless it can be proved otherwise ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ date from this time.

The philosopher Descartes wrote “The power of distinguishing the true from the false, which is properly speaking what is called good sense or reason, is by nature equal in all men”.

Trying to work out whether somebody was lying was a matter of questioning, debate and the clash between different points of view based on the gathering and analysis of evidence.

In 1730, British novelist Daniel Defoe wrote an essay entitled "An Effectual Scheme for the Immediate Preventing of Street Robberies and Suppressing all Other Disorders of the Night", wherein he recommended that taking the pulse of a suspicious fellow was a practical, effective and humane method for distinguishing truthfulness from lying. Defoe’s was an early and insightful suggestion to employ medical science in the fight against crime.

In 1878, science first came to the aid of the truth seeker through the research of Italian physiologist Angelo Mosso. Mosso used an instrument called a plethysmograph in his research on emotion and fear in subjects undergoing questioning and he studied the effects of these variables on their cardiovascular and respiratory activity. Mosso studied blood circulation and breathing patterns and how these changed under certain stimuli. The use of the plethysmograph revealed periodic undulations or waves in a subject’s blood pressure caused by the respiratory cycle in response to certain stimuli. He was the first scientist to report on experiments in which he observed that a person’s breathing pattern changed under certain stimuli, and that this change, in turn, caused variations in their blood pressure and pulse rate.

Although not for the purpose of detecting deception, Sir James Mackenzie, M.D., constructed the clinical polygraph in 1892, an instrument to be used for medical examinations with the capability to simultaneously record undulated line tracings of the vascular pulses (radial, venous and arterial), by way of a stylus onto a revolving drum of smoked paper.

Until the end of the 19th century, no measuring device for the detection of deception had ever been used. The first use of a scientific instrument designed to measure physiological responses for this purpose came in 1895 when Italian physician, psychiatrist and pioneer criminologist Cesare Lombroso modified an existing instrument called a hydrosphygmograph and used this modified device in his experiments to measure the physiological changes that occurred in a crime suspect’s blood pressure and pulse rate during a police interrogation.

Notably, Lombroso’s early device for measuring pulse rate and blood pressure is similar to the cardiosphygmograph component of the contemporary polygraph. Although Cesare Lombroso did not invent the hydrosphygmograph, he is accorded the distinction of being the first person to have used the instrument successfully as a means for determining truthfulness from deception in crime suspects. On several occasions, he used the hydrosphygmograph in actual cases to assist the police in the identification of criminals.

In 1906, Sir James Mackenzie refined his clinical polygraph of 1892 when he devised the clinical ink polygraph with the help of Lancashire watchmaker, Sebastian Shaw. This instrument used a clockwork mechanism for the paper-rolling and time-marker movements and it produced ink recordings of physiological functions that were easier to acquire and to interpret. Interestingly, it has been written that the modern polygraph is really a modification of Dr. Mackenzie’s clinical ink polygraph.

In 1914, Italian psychologist Vittorio Benussi discovered a method for calculating the quotient of the inhalation to exhalation time as a means of verifying the truth and detecting deception in a subject. Using a pneumograph, a device that recorded a subject’s breathing patterns, Benussi conducted experiments regarding the respiratory symptoms of lying. He concluded that lying caused an emotional change within a subject that resulted in detectable respiratory changes that were indicative of deception.

Dr. William Moulton Marston, an American attorney and psychologist, is credited with inventing an early form of the lie detector when, in 1915, he developed the discontinuous systolic blood pressure test which would later become one component of the modern polygraph. Dr. Marston’s technique used a standard blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope to take intermittent systolic blood pressure readings of a suspect during questioning for the purpose of detecting deception.

In 1921, John A. Larson, a Canadian psychologist employed by the Berkeley Police Department, in California, developed what many consider to be the original lie detector when he added the item of respiration rate to that of blood pressure. He named his instrument the polygraph, a word derived from the Greek language meaning many writings, since it could read several physiological responses at the same time and document these responses on a revolving drum of smoked paper. Using his polygraph, John A. Larson was the first person to continually and simultaneously measure changes in a subject’s pulse rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate during an interrogation. His polygraph was used extensively, and with much success, in criminal investigations.

In 1925, Leonarde Keeler, who had gained firsthand experience in polygraph interrogations as a result of working with John A. Larson at the Berkeley Police Department, worked to devise a polygraph that used inked pens for recording the relative changes in a subject’s blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory patterns, thus eliminating the need for smoking the paper and then preserving it with shellac.

In 1926, the Keeler Polygraph came on the market as the new and improved lie detector, an enhanced version of John A. Larson’s polygraph. Later, in 1938, Keeler refined the polygraph when he added a further physiological measuring component. The psycho-galvanometer, a component that measured changes in a subject’s galvanic skin resistance during questioning. In 1939, he patented what is now the prototype of the modern polygraph.

In 1947, John E. Reid, a lawyer from Chicago, Illinois, developed the Control Question Technique (CQT), a polygraph technique that incorporated control questions (comparison) which were designed to be emotionally arousing for non-deceptive subjects and less emotionally arousing for deceptive subjects than the relevant questions previously used. The Control Question Technique (CQT) replaced the Relevant / Irrelevant Question Technique (RIT) which used relevant or irrelevant questions during a polygraph examination. The Reid Control Question Technique was a major breakthrough in polygraph methodology.

In 1960, Cleve Backster, building upon the Reid Control Question Technique, developed the Backster Zone Comparison Technique (ZCT), a polygraph technique which primarily involved an alteration of the Reid question sequencing. He also introduced a quantification system of chart analysis, making it more objective and scientific than before. This system for the numerical evaluation of the physiological data collected from the polygraph charts has been adopted as standard procedure in the polygraph field today.

During the 1980s, research was conducted on computerized polygraph at the University of Utah by Drs. John C. Kircher and David C. Raskin and, in 1988, they developed the Computer Assisted Polygraph System (CAPS), which incorporated the first algorithm to be used for evaluating physiological data collected for diagnostic purposes.

In 2003, PolyScore Polygraph Software was developed. PolyScore is a computerized polygraph chart scoring algorithm that uses statistical probability to arrive at truthfulness or deception. It has been shown that validated algorithms have exceeded 98 per cent in their accuracy to quantify, analyze and evaluate the physiological data collected from polygraph examinations administered in real criminal cases.

The review committee of The National Academy of Sciences have concluded that, although there may be alternative techniques to polygraph testing, none can outperform the polygraph, nor do any of these yet show promise of supplanting the polygraph in the near future.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Downing Street

“We can find common qualities and common values that have made Britain the country it is. Our belief in tolerance and liberty which shines through British history. Our commitment to fairness, fair play and civic duty.”

Prime Minister - James Gordon Brown (1951- )


On 6 March 2008, I wrote to the Prime Minister for his help / advice. I had no expectation that he would even see my letter let alone provide a response. Many of my previous letters were either ignored or I received a standard letter of acknowledgement.

David Cameron MP, Leader of the Conservative Party, replied, as did Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and both acknowledged my suffering and torment. Michael Gove said “I very much sympathise with the terrible position you find yourself in. My heart goes out to you.” Sadly both admitted that Parliamentary Rules prevented them from helping.

In this morning’s post, there was my reply from 10 Downing Street ! My letter had been read by Gordon Brown ! This time he had taken action and had requested a response from the Department for Children, Schools and Families about my case.

You never know without trying what you can achieve. Never give in - that next letter or thought might provide new hope and unexpected results might be achieved !

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

No Charges For ‘Slapper’

“Advertisements... contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

“Editor: a person employed on a newspaper whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to see that the chaff is printed.”
Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

Once again I find myself in the newspapers - Chorley Guardian, 02 April 2008. The malicious cruelty of everything that has befallen me is unbearable and once again I feel so miserable.


The same article also had been published by the Lancashire Evening Post on 27 March 2008 - it seems likely that the story had been released to the press on the day of my hearing - probably as a precautionary measure, approved by the LEA.

I had spoken with the LEA last September about press statements. It seemed morally wrong that they should contribute to an article without alerting the individual of its impending publication. They agreed that it was an oversight and that they would review their policies. In future, I was assured that every effort would be made to contact the person to prevent unnecessary distress.

You get used to hearing empty meaningless words that have no sincerity - who cares !

I have pondered over these months as to who was responsible for contacting the local press. I had thought it to be my head teacher but the content was too thin and I am still puzzled. This time it must have been the head teacher - he is a bully and it is in his nature to exhibit such acts of cruelty.

To protect himself, the head teacher then put this notice up in the staffroom :

Internal Disciplinary Issue “It has come to my attention that there is talk about this matter, and not just because of an article in a local paper recently. I would like to inform staff that the process is ongoing and that staff need to respect the confidentiality associated with such a situation.”

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

You’re Fired

I received my notice letter from the LEA this morning. There in black and white :

“The seriousness of your actions, the distress caused to the child and your lack of remorse for your actions mean that the Committee do not feel able to take action short of dismissal. The Committee have determined that your actions constitute gross misconduct and have brought about a fundamental breach of the trust and confidence that the School is entitled to place in you. Therefore, we have resolved that you would be dismissed from school with immediate effect, without notice or payment in lieu of notice.”

Well there is no doubt there ! 30 years of dedicated and committed teaching exploded before me - discarded like last week’s rubbish - without care, understanding nor compassion.

Fair ? ... No ! Impartial ? ... No ! Angry ? ... Yes !

They talk of my lack of remorse ... oh, yes, I forgot it is the ‘British Way’; apologize when there is no fault and look sorry !

My fate had been determined and sealed 6 months ago. It no longer mattered who was lying or what actually happened. It had been a sham all along. The Committee and LEA never bothered to even read my statement. They extracted only those elements that supported my guilt - in their letter they say :

“We also note that your statement at that time made no reference to the possibility that you had slapped the table rather than the child.”

My statement contains :

“The task that she had was relatively easy and in order to regain her attention, I tapped the table in front of her. There were pencils, papers, books, etc. on the table and I probably tapped those resulting in the sound. She was not upset at the time and finished her work.”

They conclude in their letter :

“Having considered all the evidence available, we believe that on the afternoon of 26th September you momentarily lost control of your temper and slapped the child.”

Is there a difference between ‘slapped’ or ‘smacked’ ? The allegation had been that I had smacked the child on the hand. Bearing in mind that this event occurred across a 120cm diameter table surrounded by other children, it is difficult to imagine how it was possible !

I have been in teaching for 30 years. I am a mother too and, like every other parent, I have experienced a whole range of related emotions. Not once have I lost my temper or responded inappropriately in anger. If I had lost my temper with a child then I would not wait to be sacked ... I would have failed as a mother and a teacher and would resign !

“We have considered carefully both accounts of the suspension meeting and whilst we believe that the head teacher did make you aware that the allegations related to the child, we do accept that you should have been informed of your right to be represented at the outset of the meeting.”

In the head teacher’s investigative report, he states that, at the time of my suspension, he had told me the precise nature of the allegation and the name of the child. He also said that he had described the stages of the process and that there would be an initial ‘strategy meeting’ that would comprise the school and social services.

The fact is that he lied about this event. The purpose being to discredit my honesty – he had denied me my right to be accompanied and could now freely add conversation that never took place.

By some considerable good fortune, I remembered that I had spoken with the LEA HR department on 17 October 2007 and that I had a recording of the conversation :

Me:When do I actually find out ... um ... what I am supposed to have done ? And who I’m supposed to have done it with ‘cos I haven’t had .....
LEA HR:Right OK, so if the investigation progresses, dependent on who’s carrying that out, if it’s referred back to the school then you’ll be invited into an investigation meeting and all of the detail of that will be conveyed to you.

The reason for the call had been to inform me that a scheduled ‘strategy meeting’ had been postponed.

Me:What’s a ‘strategy meeting’ ?
LEA HR:The ‘strategy meeting’ is where the ... uh ... social services, the police and ourselves attend the meeting to determine what ... uh ... course of action is due to take place next.
Me:Right.

I would not have asked these questions if the head teacher had already communicated this information to me as is claimed.

(This had been the first and only attempt by the LEA to keep me informed about the progress of my case.)

The letter ends :

“The Committee hope that you feel you had a fair hearing and would like to assure you that they thoroughly considered all of the information presented prior to and during the hearing, in coming to their decision.”

Hoping that I felt it to be a fair hearing is not the same as knowing that they gave me a fair hearing ! Assuring me that they thoroughly considered all of the information is not the same as knowing that they thoroughly considered all of the information !

By their own admission in this letter, they omitted to notice such a key element of my case - I said at the hearing that I slapped or tapped the table, as does my statement ... they were not thorough ... but should I have expected anything better ?



The LEA were keen to cover their failings :

“We were concerned by your statement that no one with the exception of the police, had ever asked you to relate in your own words the events of 26th September 2007. We are satisfied that the disciplinary investigation meeting held on 13th December was convened in order to allow you to do so. We note that you took external advice and chose not to use this opportunity, preferring to submit a written statement.”

They might have been satisfied but I was not. My mental state through stress and medication makes it difficult for me to focus my attention. I was scared at the thought of this meeting of 13 December 2007, especially as there would be only my head teacher and his LEA representative present.

The LEA HR already knew from earlier unrelated meetings that I felt intimidated by the head teacher and that it would be especially stressful for me to be in his company.

The purpose of the meeting was not clear from the procedural documentation. I wanted to be able to relate my account without interruption and asked the LEA if that would be the case. They replied :

“The purpose of the meeting is in order for you to be able to respond to the allegation that has been made against you, this is covered in section 3.3 of the disciplinary procedure. Following the meeting it is proposed that a statement is made on your behalf and this then forms the basis of your response.”

It is clear that the purpose of this meeting was for the head teacher to interrogate me from which he would produce my statement. There was no way that I could cope with a grilling by my head teacher and I already had a very detailed statement - why therefore should I want someone to reinterpret my account ?

So on 13 December, I gave my written statement and added that they could contact me if there were any queries that had not been covered.
(The suggestion that I provide my own written statement did not originate from ‘external advice’ but directly from a senior LEA HR manager !)

I never heard from anyone over the next 3 months !

My mistake was that I provided too much information in my statement. I had explained in some detail the reasons why I could not have assaulted the child. This provided the head teacher with a clearly defined target to discredit my account - I should have kept quiet !

Friday, 28 March 2008

Sacked

The probable explanation for the expression is that in medieval times workmen carried the tools or implements of their trade in a bag or sack. When an unsatisfactory worker was to be fired, on the last day on the job, his employer would hand him his pay and the sack containing his tools – he had got the SACK, he had been SACKED.



Whatever the derivation of the word might be, that is what happened to me this morning at 10:00. My solicitor called to give me the bad news. He had no details other than I had been dismissed for gross misconduct. I should receive confirmation and the details of the findings of the committee by post in a few days. By then, my solicitor will be in a better position to advise me on how to proceed.

An appeal ? Sounds like a good idea but where will that lead ? More of the same from the same board of governors and I am certain that the head teacher will be able to create more evidence.

Knowing that you did nothing gives you a rather unique perspective and I find myself feeling so confused and let down by my trust and belief in society. All along, no one has cared or bothered and now to fully appreciate the callous and malicious nature of people is beyond belief.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Judgement Day

“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares ? ... He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes !”
Billy Connelly (1942- )

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”
Dennis Wholey (1939- )


I awoke that morning with a sense of elation and pride. I was proud to have faced and overcome my perceived horrors of the hearing. I was optimistic that there might be a resolution - an end to the suffering.

It was confusing - whatever the outcome, it was not going to be what I wanted. Sacked or back to work at the same school - neither looked that attractive !

The rest of the morning, I wandered around expecting and dreading a telephone call - but none came. In the afternoon, I called my friend at school. She had been keeping a vigilant eye on activities and she said that the committee had convened just before 12:00.

By late afternoon, I still had heard nothing and my friend later said that the committee had adjourned shortly after 15:00.

I was determined to enjoy the remainder of the day. It had been my daughter’s 18th birthday two days earlier. She had just returned from holiday, so we celebrated over a meal in a local restaurant.

Later, we toasted her future with a glass of champagne and managed to forget the pending outcome of the hearing.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Disciplinary Hearing

Judge Jeffreys - ‘The hanging judge’Judge George Jeffreys was born in 1648. Educated at Cambridge, he was appointed Solicitor General to the Duke of York and was knighted in 1677. He became recorder of London in 1678 and, by the time he was 33, he became Lord Chief Justice of England and a privy counsellor, later becoming Lord Chancellor. In 1683, he became Baron Jeffreys of Wem.

He became known as the ‘Hanging Judge’ because of the punishments he had given to the supporters of the Duke of Monmouth as a result of a failed rebellion.

In 1685, Judge Jeffreys came to Dorchester and lodged at 6, High West Street, Dorchester, (now the restaurant, Judge Jeffreys). The Bloody Assizes were held in the Oak Room (now a Tea Room) of the Antelope Hotel on the 5th day of September in that year. Judge Jeffreys is said to have a secret passage from his lodgings to the Oak Room.

In total seventy-four people were executed, one hundred and seventy five were transported and twenty nine were pardoned. Executions were carried out in towns and villages close to Dorchester.

In 1688 when James II fled the country, Judge Jeffreys was placed in the Tower of London, where he died, aged 44, as the result of kidney disease.



“Just take a seat !”The first electrocution in history was a disaster. The condemned man, axe murderer William Kemmler, lived through the first round of shocks. His executioners at Auburn prison in upstate New York had to do it all over again as the stink of Kemmler’s burning flesh filled the death house. “They would have done better with an axe.” Westinghouse commented.



I had not slept well; the usual nightmare of judges and court settings. My mind again was struggling to cope with what was going to be another ordeal. Exactly 6 months had now elapsed since the date of the allegation. There was little expectation of a fair hearing but I hoped that the skills of my barrister, who I had not yet met nor even spoken with, might produce a miracle.

The venue for the hearing was a local educational conference centre and was due to commence at 16:00. My barrister had arranged to meet me there at 14:30 to prepare.

My partner and I arrived at the same moment as my barrister. She was lovely and her demeanour of professionalism gave me a new found sense of courage to face what was now ahead.

We spent the next few hours discussing the details of my case and she outlined the format of her presentation of what I might expect.

My witnesses arrived at about 15:30 and she spent a while briefing them about their involvement and presentation.

The actual meeting started some 30 minutes late as my barrister had concerns about the members of the disciplinary committee but her request for a new committee was denied.

So, at about 16:30, we were led into the actual hearing to meet the various representatives of the LEA / governors :

After initial introductions and an explanation by the LEA HR representative about the format of the hearing, the head teacher read his report.

Prior to reading his conclusions, his witnesses appeared one at a time and they read their statements. The governors / LEA and my barrister then cross-examined each witness.

During this period there were several adjournments when the head teacher and his LEA HR support withdrew to discuss points that had been raised / queried by my barrister.

The head teacher then delivered his damning conclusions.

By the time the head teacher had finished his presentation and there were no more questions it was almost 20:00.

My barrister then introduced me and I was asked to relate my recollection of events. I was surprised to find that I spoke so freely and openly without interruption. It was much like my interview with the police – I told the truth and presented as full an account of what had happened as I was able.

I was then questioned by the chair of the disciplinary committee and the LEA representative. My head teacher attempted to make some derogatory remarks and asked some leading questions. I found that I was able to deal with the situation well and responded from a position of strength.

My witnesses then appeared before the assembly and made their presentations. As before, they were questioned at some length.

The head teacher then made his closing comments – essentially repeating that I was guilty of gross misconduct.

My barrister’s closing statement was such a contrast. It was well considered and pulled all of the known facts into a concise and cohesive argument.

By now it had gone 21:15 and the disciplinary committee said that the meeting would be adjourned until the following day. They said that they would deliberate the presentations and that a decision would be communicated to me via my solicitor.

I felt that I had given my best and I knew that I had been represented by the finest legal support possible.

So we walked out into the night, gave our barrister a big, heartfelt hug and our deepest thanks and went home with a sense of optimism.

The hearing had not been the nightmare ordeal that I had expected. No one lost their temper, although one of the head teacher’s witnesses did look very distressed even from the start.

Advice ? You must have a good legal representative – my confidence came from trust and faith in my barrister. It was very reassuring to have my partner with me ... he was not allowed to speak nor intervene on my behalf and he sat writing notes.

The rules for who may accompany you are well documented. Essentially you are allowed one representative – there was no problem expressed about my partner attending but I took the precaution of getting a letter from my doctor that stated my partner should be there on medical grounds due to my mental state.

Remember too that you can request an adjournment at any time.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Dress Rehearsal

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

“The truth needs so little rehearsal.”
Barbara Kingsolver (1955- )

The eve of the hearing has arrived. After some 6 months, I have accumulated a box file of paperwork and a lever arch folder crammed with neatly organized correspondence, statements and other reference material.

I have lived with it all, most I have written myself and most I now have forgotten.

Today, I look at it - there is too much ... like staring at a hedgerow from a high speed car, it all blurs and blends into a confusion of colour. Tomorrow it has to all become crystal clear, sharp and memorable.

I have not yet met my barrister and I wonder how much depth of knowledge that she has of my case and associated facts and details.

It is up to you but it is much like a revision process - a dress rehearsal. You will be asked questions and your responses need to be fluent, concise and accurate.

Everything is in your statement, so read it, noting any important points. Try to replay it all in your mind. Then scan all of your paperwork. Use ‘PostIt’ notes against anything that you might want to reference whilst taking notes of any questions that you would like your representative to address.

(The hearing will be an ordeal, so pamper yourself and have an early night - do not worry - my barrister was competent and able, as will be your representative !)



The head teacher professes to be an aspiring actor and says "In my spare time I tread the boards at Chorley Little Theatre."

His idea of a dress rehearsal was more akin to that involved with a theatrical production. He was observed entering my classroom with the two hostile witnesses after school where they discussed the format of the hearing and what would be said. Later they were seen around the scene of the ‘crime’ - the table, where they tried to reach over and smack one another.

I question whether such behaviour is in the best interests of impartiality and the desire to determine the ‘truth’ but remember it really no longer matters and no one cares anyway !

(I ponder whether the two witnesses were provided with a script !)

Friday, 14 March 2008

Einige Zitate

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.”

“As soon as by one’s own propaganda even a glimpse of right on the other side is admitted, the cause for doubting one’s own right is laid.”

“Great liars are also great magicians.”

“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.”

“Humanitarianism is the expression of stupidity and cowardice.”

“I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.”

“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”

“It is not truth that matters but victory.”

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

“Only force rules. Force is the first law.”

“Our teachers were absolute tyrants. They had no sympathy with youth; their one object was to stuff our brains and turn us into erudite apes like themselves. If any pupil showed the slightest trace of originality, they persecuted him relentlessly, and the only model pupils whom I have ever got to know have all been failures in after-life.”

“Sooner will a camel pass through a needle’s eye than a great man be ‘discovered’ by an election.”

“Strength lies not in defence but in attack.”

“Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.”

“The art of leadership... consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.”

“The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.”

“The day of individual happiness has passed.”

“The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of flowing passion but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others.”

“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.”

“The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.”

“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”

“The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”

“Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”

“Universal education is the most corroding and disintegrating poison that liberalism has ever invented for its own destruction.”

“What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”

“When an opponent declares, “I will not come over to your side”, I calmly say, “Your child belongs to us already... What are you ? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.””

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

The doctrine and ethos of Nazism is present in our lives in Britain. Once again we are surrounded by ‘whistleblowers’ whose actions are encouraged by the state. The denial of social and moral accountability permits the ‘bullies’ free reign.

No more so at my school where it is dangerous to say anything. Your words and actions are distorted and reported.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Pinocchio

Blue Fairy :Now remember Pinocchio, be a good boy and always let your conscience be your guide.
Blue Fairy :A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

Why do people lie ? In my case, two colleagues are now clearly lying. At first, I believed that they had made a genuine error of judgement and incorrectly interpreted events.

Now they are lying, their versions, with every telling, continue to change and new evidence and observations have been added - their lies get bigger. I suppose that they have no choice - when you start lying there can be no turning back - no matter the consequences.

Up until this mess, I had an implicit trust and faith in people. Today, I have a different opinion and it is sad to know that I doubt everyone’s motives ... no longer am I able to be as open and confident in my conversation.

It is pity that we are not more like Pinocchio ... lies are hard to recognize and even more difficult to defeat.

Types of Lie
Lies can be categorized in many different ways but a widely held view is that there are four types of lie :
  • Pro-social - Lying to help someone else.
  • Self-enhancement - Lying to make yourself look better whilst not hurting another.
  • Selfish - Lying to personally benefit at the expense of another.
  • Anti-social - Lying to deliberately damage another.
Simple Signs of Lying
The type of lie, and whether it is in keeping with the liar’s character, dictates how apparent the signs of lying are. Occasionally they are extremely obvious, especially when the liar is feeling guilty.

Obvious signs include :
  • Over denial - Repeating protests of innocence.
  • Stuttering - Stumbling over words without natural fluency.
  • Hand Wringing - Fiddling, rubbing, picking and playing with the fingers and hands while talking.
  • Eye Contact - Unwillingness to make or never breaking it.
The majority of people intending to tell a lie fabricate their story long beforehand and become comfortable with it and so rarely get caught out easily. Equally, many of the signs indicated may also simply be signs of nerves due to shyness or discomfort with a new situation.

Subtle Signs of Lying
There are of course more subtle signs which most people miss and which can affect even word perfect liars. These include :
  • Over formal speech - Use of long words, painfully correct grammar and the full forms of words or phrases that would normally be shortened, suggesting a scripted speech rather than natural conversation.
  • Very few gestures and no pointing - As physical movement illustrating something being described are a quite common and natural activity.
  • Justification - Attempting to justify every detail with lengthy explanations
  • Disparity - Mismatch between tone of voice and expression.
People who are used to detecting lies develop an instinct towards the more obscure signs, perhaps without even consciously noticing them. Most people, however, have a great deal of difficulty working out when someone is telling the truth. Which is why there are so many attempts to make a foolproof machine for catching lies.

I have pondered the value in taking a polygraph test. There are some staggering claims about their accuracy and reliability. I enquired about costs; there are three specialist organizations that will visit your home, including one that undertakes testing on behalf of Trisha Goddard’s Channel 5 Television programme - total cost of about £500.00. Yet would anyone be prepared to accept the validity of these tests ? Ideally I and the two hostile witnesses would have to be tested and that is not going to happen !

DETECTING DECEPTION : NADAC GROUP



“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)


Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Life Of Brian

Brian:What will they do to me ?
Ben the Prisoner:Oh you’ll probably get away with crucifixion.
Brian:CRUCIFIXION ?
Ben the Prisoner:Yeah, first offence.



Brian:Thank God you’ve come, Reg.
Reg:Well, I think I should point out first, Brian, in all fairness, we are not, in fact, the rescue committee. However, I have been asked to read the following prepared statement on behalf of the movement. “We the People’s Front of Judea, brackets, officials, end brackets, do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom.”
Brian:What ?
Reg:“Your death will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parent land from the hands of the Roman imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes and hermaphrodites. Signed, on behalf of the P. F. J., etc.” And I’d just like to add, on a personal note, my own admiration, for what you’re doing for us, Brian, on what must be, after all, for you a very difficult time.


Monday, 10 March 2008

Tools Of The Trade

“We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire...give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

As already mentioned, it will be necessary for you to produce much of your written documentation in Microsoft Word format and any pictures in JPEG. The benefit is that you can then readily e-mail your case files to your representative.

I use Microsoft Word for word-processing but OpenOffice.org is a very good alternative; it is a full office suite including spreadsheet, drawing and database support and best of all it is free.

For basic image processing / conversion, I can thoroughly recommend IrfanView. IrfanView has a wide range of features including rotation, cropping and resizing. It is not a paint package.

You will receive letters and other non-electronic documents. You must preserve / file the originals but it can be useful to convert these into Word documents. TopOCR is an optical character recognition processor. Essentially, you provide TopOCR with a picture of a document and it then converts it into text that you can edit.

I used a flatbed scanner but TopOCR works with any source and that might be from a digital camera or even your mobile phone.

Microsoft Word
Create and share great-looking documents by combining a comprehensive set of writing tools with an easy-to-use interface.

OpenOffice.org
OpenOffice.org is a multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute.

IrfanView
IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative freeware (for non-commercial use) graphic viewer for Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista.

TopOCR
TopOCR, Version 3.1. The latest release is completely free to end-users. TopOCR makes it easy to use your digital camera or smartphone as a mobile scanner to capture and OCR documents.

I have only investigated Windows based software - so apologies to Apple MAC users.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Ethos - I Found It !

Ethos : (n.) The character, sentiment, or disposition of a community or people, considered as a natural endowment; the spirit which actuates manners and customs; also, the characteristic tone or genius of an institution or social organization.

[Webster 1913 Suppl.]

In early November 2004, I and two colleagues were told by the head teacher that we had been awarded UPS3 – (a pay award – Upper Pay Spine 3). He told us that our salaries would be amended accordingly and that an adjustment would be made as the award was backdated to September.

This UPS3 was in line with government and county policy. Teachers in other Lancashire schools had already received their awards as a natural progression and without the need to produce any additional performance related evidence.

Two weeks later, the head teacher informed the three of us collectively that, as he had been absent during the preceding school year and had not been involved with performance management, he could not grant the pay award without written evidence. He made no apology for this and tried to convince us that it was in line with LEA policy.

The head teacher led us to believe that written evidence was needed to comply with his policy and that upon submission of our work that the UPS3 would be approved.

We duly produced reports but were later told that our work was not satisfactory and the head teacher said that we would not receive UPS3 awards.

One member of staff, following a discussion with the chair of governors, was granted her UPS3 – whilst I and my colleague had to contact our respective unions to formally appeal against his judgement.

Whilst waiting for union intervention, I decided that it might be more straightforward to ask the head teacher what had been wrong with the report that I had submitted. His behaviour at this meeting was aggressive and very personal – not professional by a long shot ! He lost his temper and shouted at me. (He is one of those people – prior to him erupting, his neck goes red then his face !) He told me in no uncertain terms that I had no ethos and that other teachers were more supportive of him and the school.

I have learnt to keep calm at these meetings with him – there is no point in me losing my temper … on this occasion, I could not tolerate his attitude and words and was forced to close the conversation and leave.

My UPS3 appeal was heard on 18 May 2005, some 6 months later ! At this meeting were the head teacher, chair of governors, another governor, an LEA representative and my union representative.

I made my presentation to those present. This met with an aggressive response from the chair of governors who was more interested in why my report had been submitted late. (I had not been told by anyone that it should have been submitted in the first place.)

The head teacher then responded to my presentation. He made no reference to my presentation nor the paperwork that I had submitted. He had his own written agenda and proceeded with a character assassination, saying :
  • I am not a team player.
  • I never support him.
  • I don’t take advice.
  • I am a law unto myself based on the fact that I had disagreed with his reasons for wanting the reception children to attend morning assemblies.
  • I take ad hoc coffee breaks.
  • I would do a lot better if I watched my colleagues in action.
  • I have no ethos.
When I tried to comment during his ranting, I was told by the chair of governors that if I continued to interrupt that I would have to leave the meeting.

After waiting in a room for 30 minutes, the LEA representative informed me that my appeal had failed for reasons never explained. (My union representative had not helped / supported nor intervened at any time – she had been as shocked as me but did nothing !)

Following this sham, my colleague withdrew her appeal, which was due to be heard later the same week, through fear of similar treatment / outcome.



I never succeeded in getting my UPS3 award but, later, I did find Ethos – it was in the china section of Dawsons Department Store in Clitheroe … who would have thought it ! … my partner even got me a poster to prove it !

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Good Times - Bad Times

“Mrs. Jane Jameson, daughter of long-time Royal Preston Hospital patient, Tony Woods, narrowly missed joining her father today when her vehicle burst into flames. Eye witnesses were disappointed that the conflagration failed to engulf the petrol tank. The owner of an adjacent car thanked the fire brigade for cleaning his car.”

Lancashire Evening Post 16 April 2007
In every way, 2007 has been the worst year of my life. It began with every woman’s nightmare – I had a cancer scare in January; a routine test had found ‘abnormal cells’.

In February, I underwent minor surgery. My operation did not go exactly as expected … I collapsed in the corridor on the day of my discharge having had to stay the night. I suffered from phlebitis (inflammation of the veins) triggered by the anaesthetic.

In late February, my father of 86, fell and broke his hip. He was admitted to the Royal Preston Hospital where he underwent surgery for hip replacement.

Whilst in hospital, my father contracted Clostridium Difficile. The family rallied round and we established a weekly schedule of visiting times.

It was during one of my visits that my beloved Vauxhall Vectra caught fire in the visitors car park adjacent to the Accident and Emergency Department. At first, the ignition would not turn off. I rang my partner for advice and whilst on my mobile, black smoke started to engulf the front of my car. He told me to ring the fire brigade but by that time, the smoke had triggered the hospital fire alarms and help had been summoned.

My car was a write-off and was towed away unceremoniously. Inside the hospital there was a fevered excitement – for safety, the A & E Department had been evacuated.

Upstairs, on my father’s ward, the excitement continued and the story had grown – according to many ‘witnesses’, my humble Vauxhall was now the flagship of the BMW range … why does that happen ?

The treatment and care that my father received was far from what anyone would have expected. It is odd to notice the same telltale signs of rigid adherence to policies / procedures that resulted in little awareness of the needs of the patient. None of the doctors seemed to have a ‘full-picture’ of his treatment, condition or prognosis … worse, there were no signs that they cared.

Following a lengthy meeting with PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison Service), the quality of the nursing care improved dramatically.

Sadly, my father died on 29 May 2007.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Classroom Stories

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

“Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Slowly and inextricably, I am coming to terms with what I am about to lose – in truth it has already been taken – that happened 6 months ago and it now seems like a lifetime.

I have been a teacher for almost 30 years and I loved every day of my job. I always knew that I wanted to teach; even before I attended my first school. I consider myself to be a vocational teacher; many people these days work to live but, for me, I live to teach and I had expected to continue teaching until age got the better of me and that retirement would move me on to other opportunities and challenges.

Teaching these days is not easy and all of us need greater support and help with the ever changing demands and requirements of the system; especially the increasing levels of bureaucracy.

In today’s schools, the emphasis is on constant monitoring, observation and attainment records; not solely children but also teachers. In this pressurized environment, it is vital for all teachers to know that they can rely on their head teacher for support (there is no one else !). In return, the head teacher must engender a sense of respect, understanding and appreciation of one another in order to maintain a team of motivated, enthusiastic and confident staff. The head teacher must have the ability to listen and be pro-active in providing support and this role demands someone who is self confident and able to make decisions based on rational judgement and possibly devolving decisions to other staff thereby fostering a sense of trust. Few people have these qualities; I respect the fact that being a head teacher can be onerous and this is reflected in the number of head teacher vacancies.

For me, my children come first and I love to interact with them as they are all such unique and precious individuals and they have such a special and fresh perception of the world.

I have intended to collate a book of the many stories that children have shared with me over the years. One special memory that I recollect was related to me a few years ago by a boy whose grandmother had recently died. Death was very much on his mind and what it meant and he approached me and asked “Do you get poorly when you go to heaven ?” and I replied “No, no one gets ill in heaven.” He looked at me and smiled saying “Oh, that’s good, it’s a long way to heaven and I get travel sick !”

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Time Bandits

“There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at and who steals what is most precious to men; time.”

Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Since my suspension on 27 September 2007, 161 days, 23 weeks, almost 6 months have now elapsed.

Case Milestones :
DateDescriptionElapsed
Days
Increment
Days
26 Sep 2007Alleged incident
27 Sep 2007Suspended11
31 Oct 2007Police arrest3534
19 Nov 2007CPS - Case dropped5419
13 Dec 2007Preliminary meeting7824
26 Mar 2008Disciplinary hearing182104

The LEA document Handling Allegations of Abuse Against Staff states :

“Investigations should be completed within 15 days wherever possible.”

“It is recognised that there is a need for management, both at the school and Authority level, to provide some means of support to staff who are the subject of allegations of misconduct at work, or who have been suspended for alleged misconduct under the School Disciplinary Procedure. In such circumstances the member of staff involved may experience feelings of worry and depression; they may also feel isolated from their workplace and colleagues.”

“It is important that staff are made aware of what is happening in relation to the disciplinary investigation, as lack of information may also lead to further stress and ill health. In addition, it must be understood that the allegations may have placed the member of staff in a difficult situation in relation to his/her family.”


On 19 October, I was notified that the outcome of a ‘strategy meeting’ had concluded that the allegation was to be investigated by the police. Some 23 days had already elapsed and I was arrested 12 days later on 31 October. Another 19 days elapsed before the police informed me that the Crown Prosecution Service were not going to progress the case.

The following day, 20 November, the LEA informed me that the school intended to embark on a Disciplinary Hearing process and that I would be called to an initial meeting on the 13 December – some 78 days since the actual allegation.

The head teacher should have started his investigations and, in accordance with the ideals of the LEA’s procedures, this report should have been completed within 15 days; by 4 December.

From the date of the allegation to the point where the case was dropped by the CPS took 54 days – and it will have taken another 128 days before my Disciplinary Hearing.

It seems reasonable to expect meetings between multiple agencies, social services, police, school, LEA and ensuing police investigations, might take time. What seems incredulous and scandalous, is that it then takes a single agency, the school, 128 days (4.5 months) to then arrange a Disciplinary Hearing !

This protracted delay is not to your advantage - everyday is torture and it is remorseless in its effect. However, for your school and the LEA there are significant and strategic benefits gained by the deferral of a hearing.

Over 6 months, the situation at school will have stabilized and life will have returned to normal for staff, parents and children – you have become history and memories of you will be fading. If your case had been handled with greater urgency, the consequential effects of the outcome from your Disciplinary Hearing might have resulted in some profound effects and problems for the school.

It is easier for people to accept that you have been suspended – and, for them, it does look as though you are on ‘paid holiday’. Then they are not allowed to communicate with you and vice versa – so they will never know of your suffering.

For 6 months, the ‘system’ has wanted you to remain quiet and excluded for reasons nothing to do with the ‘investigative process’.

You remain passive and hopeful but in your heart you know that there can be and always has been one outcome – at best, you will never teach at your school again; at worst, you will never teach again.

The policies / procedures care nothing for you … and the people who are accountable / responsible do nothing … the ‘system’ is protecting itself; morality is not contained in the rule book. In the end, everyone will have ‘done their job’ and they can sleep easy knowing that they followed the rules !

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his many quotations have provided me with so much inspiration over these months - to believe in ourselves and to continue to struggle against such adversity.

“The secret of education is respecting the pupil.”

“As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”




Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, essayist and philosopher was born in 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and teaching for a brief time, Emerson entered the ministry. He was appointed to the Old Second Church in his native city but soon became an unwilling preacher. Unable in conscience to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper after the death of his 19 year old wife from tuberculosis, Emerson resigned his pastorate in 1831.

The following year, he sailed to Europe, visiting Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Carlyle, the Scottish born English writer, was famous for his explosive attacks on hypocrisy and materialism, his distrust of democracy and his highly romantic belief in the power of the individual. Emerson’s friendship with Carlyle was both lasting and significant; the insights of the British thinker helped Emerson formulate his own philosophy.

On his return to New England, Emerson became known for challenging traditional thought. In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. Known in the local literary circle as ‘The Sage of Concord’, Emerson became the chief spokesman for Transcendentalism, the American philosophic and literary movement. Centred in New England during the 19th century, Transcendentalism was a reaction against scientific rationalism.

Emerson’s first book, Nature (1836), is perhaps the best expression of his Transcendentalism, the belief that everything in our world, even a drop of dew, is a microcosm of the universe. His concept of the Over-Soul, a Supreme Mind that every man and woman share, allowed Transcendentalists to disregard external authority and to rely instead on direct experience. ‘Trust thyself’, Emerson’s motto, became the code of Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau and W. E. Channing. From 1842 to 1844, Emerson edited the Transcendentalist journal, The Dial.

Emerson wrote poetic prose, ordering his essays by recurring themes and images. His poetry is often called harsh and didactic. Among Emerson’s most well known works are Essays, First and Second Series (1841, 1844). The First Series includes Emerson’s famous essay, ‘Self-Reliance’, in which the writer instructs his listener to examine his relationship with Nature and God and to trust his own judgment above all others.

Emerson’s other volumes include Poems (1847), Representative Men, The Conduct of Life (1860) and English Traits (1865). His best known addresses are The American Scholar (1837) and The Divinity School Address which he delivered before the graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, shocking Boston’s conservative clergymen with his descriptions of the divinity of man and the humanity of Jesus.

Emerson’s philosophy is characterized by its reliance on intuition as the only way to comprehend reality and his concepts owe much to the works of Plotinus, Swedenborg and Böhme. A believer in the ‘divine sufficiency of the individual’, Emerson was a steady optimist. His refusal to grant the existence of evil caused Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, Sr., among others, to doubt his judgment. In spite of their scepticism, Emerson’s beliefs are of central importance in the history of American culture.

Ralph Waldo Emerson died of pneumonia in 1882.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Legal Support

“The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a scrape.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)


If you have full confidence in your union representative then you are fortunate. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend seeking independent legal advice for your own reassurance.

Any allegation of abuse against you must be taken seriously, realize that it can lead to your loss of liberty, livelihood and contact with your own children.

In such cases, you will need one, two or all of the following types of legal support :
  • A criminal defence solicitor to represent you at a police interview, trial and any appeal.

  • A solicitor with specialist knowledge of Employment Law and with experience of the education system to deal with issues relating to suspension, investigative process, disciplinary hearing and its outcome.

  • A family solicitor to deal with any problems that might arise in relation to contact with your own children.
Finding a solicitor is not easy and personal recommendations are unlikely to help. Local solicitors will not have the range of skills / experience needed and you will have to explore wider a field. I found my solicitor after much reading and research on the Internet.

Prior to contacting a solicitor have as much of the background to your case available in a format suitable for e-mailing. Your documentation should be in Microsoft Word and any photographic / scanned information should be in JPEG format.

Most firms of solicitors will provide an introductory ‘free’ consultation - usually about 30 minutes. So before making your first telephone call, try to summarize your situation and apprehensions, as concisely as possible, on paper. During your initial conversation suggest e-mailing your documentation so that they are more able to consider your case. Suggest that you call again the following day to discuss the matter further and to obtain details of expected costs in handling your case.

There are many articles that describe the solicitor / client relationship; stressing the importance that they are under your instruction. Unless you have in-depth experience of the law, it is unlikely that you will be in a position to instruct a solicitor. You need a solicitor who is able to take the lead and be pro-active in their actions - in effect you need to be instructed in the ‘best’ course of action. More importantly, realize that you are recruiting a partner - someone who believes and understands you and someone who you can trust with your life.

Costs ? Solicitors fees are expensive - in relation to what ? - your life ? At the initial meeting / contact with your solicitor, you should be provided with a basic outline of their standard charges; hourly rates, telephone calls and letters. They should be able to provide an estimate of the total costs but this will be subject to change as your case progresses.

It is possible that you might be able to claim ‘Legal Aid’ for certain aspects of your case and your solicitor can advise you about your eligibility. It is also possible that some of your costs might be covered by your domestic insurance policies. For example, my house contents insurance has provision for covering legal costs in court cases involving my employer.

A good solicitor will encourage you to take responsibility for some aspects of your case, to keep you involved and to save money. There will be many reports to prepare and witness information to be collated - at times, it will be more effective for you to undertake this work.

In my case, I have had occasion to use the services of two firms of solicitors and my experience has been excellent. They both provided support beyond that expected and with care and understanding.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Paying The Price

Mr. Micawber : Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen, six; result, happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, ought and six; result, misery.

Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870),
David Copperfield, 1849

I remind you that is not a ‘paid holiday’ ... beyond the costs to my health, the destruction of so many aspects of my life and that of my family - paying the price is expensive ... an ‘investment’ that you will not recover !

Remember the nightmare ... even though you are suspended on full salary, the financial losses associated with a false allegation case can be substantial.

Through lack of union support, I have now incurred legal fees in excess of £2,000 and rising.

My partner’s business has been impacted. He is a freelance software developer who runs his own business. Last October, he was forced to rearrange scheduled meetings to support me through the period when I was arrested - the result was that he incurred costs of around £500 and lost two contracts. Since November, my partner has committed most of his time into looking after me and assisting in the preparation of the many reports in defence of my case. He later suffered depression and has not been able to work - incurring business losses to date of around £6,000.

I would estimate by the time of my hearing, 26 March, our total costs will be in excess of £10,000.

Beyond monetary costs; how do you put a price on the loss of Christmas / New Year, damage to health, sleepless nights and a life on hold ? This list of consequential losses is endless ...

What choice do you have ? None ... you must fight and be prepared for the addition of financial fears on top of everything else ... the nightmare gets worse !

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