Sunday, 12 July 2009

Peter Harvey, accused of attempted murder

The whole country has been shocked to read the story of the teacher who has been charged after striking a pupil. There is no way of knowing the rights and wrongs of the case right now, but I have posted the following on the TES message board.

An LEA has a legal duty of care towards its employees. I imagine every local authority nowadays has posters saying something like, "Aggression towards staff will not be tolerated... will be prosecuted" - teachers alone never receive that protection. We are expected to put up with hooligan behaviour that no other employee would be expected to deal with, and teachers alone are blamed as being 'bad' at their job when they are victims of aggression.

A teacher who has had a stroke has a disability which (I haven't checked, but...) I presume is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act, which adds extra legal responsibilities to the employer. Any caring employer will seek to protect staff; will try even harder if they know a member of staff has suffered stress and will try yet harder if someone has suffered a stress-related stroke. It is all hearsay at the moment, but reports indicate that the teacher in question suffered appallingly vile abuse about his disability. If it were racial abuse, sexual abuse, etc, I cannot imagine that there would be the same lack of sympathy for this man.

I do hope this is fully investigated, and that the support package the LEA and HT put in place to support Mr Harvey on his return to work is carefully examined. How many teachers have been interviewed by their line manager on their return to work after sickness? I suspect it is a minority, but I bet it is official policy by most local authorities. Some people would see it as oppressive, treating the worker as a skiver: I see it as the employer and HT showing that they give a damn whether the employee comes to work and that they have even the slightest concern for the employee's welfare.

Right now, we have no way of knowing what all the rights and wrongs of the current case are. However, I hope that it will raise awareness of the failings of the educational system (and of society which gives many schools and many teachers an impossible job to do), and that it brings closer the day that a HT and an LEA's Director of Education end up behind bars for failing in their duty of care towards a teacher.