Spot check caused 'psychiatric injury,' claims sacked teacher

AN ART teacher was sacked after going on sick leave when one of his lessons was deemed “inadequate,” an employment tribunal heard.

During a spot check by senior staff on John Beardshall’s lesson, the hearing was told, students arrived late and were unchallenged and did not appear to know what they were doing.

The Brinsworth Comprehensive School teacher, who was described as having an “artistic temperament,” also missed deadlines for submitting pupils’ work records and spied on a newly qualified teacher’s lesson through a hole, the tribunal was told.

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Mr Beardshall, who is in his fifties, claimed that he faced a “tirade of criticism” following the snap inspection of his class by former headteacher Mike Gray and his deputy John Naylor.

The teacher was signed off work with stress, anxiety and depression after claiming that he suffered a “psychiatric injury” following feedback from the unannounced class visit in February, 2008. He was eventually sacked in May, 2009.

Mr Beardshall is claiming unfair dismissal and discrimination on grounds of disability and trade union activities against Mr Gray and Rotherham Borough Council.

He did not appear at the Sheffield hearing on grounds of illness but it went ahead in his absence.

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In his witness statement, Mr Beardshall, from Barnsley, claimed that he was targeted after unannounced observed lessons were introduced at the school to develop monitoring of teaching standards following an Ofsted inspection.

He claimed that the feedback he got from the lesson was an “absolute travesty” which amounted to “gross victimisation.”

But Mr Gray told the tribunal: “I would have expected a higher level of competence.”

He said that he and his deputy had tried to be constructive and made suggestions on improving the lesson at a meeting with the teacher the next day.

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“We did not harangue, threaten or accuse Mr Beardshall of not inspiring or motivating pupils,” Mr Gray said.

He said that there was no barrage of criticism and any comments of “inadequate” related to the lesson and not the teacher.

Mr Beardshall claimed that the snap inspection led to unbearable stress and was a “deplorable measure deliberately used to misrepresent and add intolerable pressure.”

But the headteacher emphatically rejected his claim.

The teacher also claimed that he was “bullied and intimidated” by his head of department, Ruth Fletcher, saying that computers were fitted in all the art rooms except his.

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A newly-qualified teacher was brought in to teach some of his classes and Mr Beardshall was spotted “peering through a hole from the store room into the classroom.”

He also entered class to give the teacher some advice which left the newcomer feeling “undermined.”

Mr Gray, who retired in August, 2008, said the lesson inspections were an important part of the school’s monitoring of its teaching.

Brinsworth’s current headteacher, Richard Fone, said that the teacher was on sick leave when he was appointed but refused to attend meetings.

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David Morris, the school’s joint NUT rep with Mr Beardshall, said that he felt singled out after the lesson was observed.

Before that Mr Beardshall was becoming more agitated about certain school matters which he linked to his union activities. “I felt he was seeing conspiracies,” said Mr Morris.

David Calvert, solicitor for the respondents, said that lesson observations had been in place at the school for at least 12 months before Mr Beardshall’s class was inspected.

Brinsworth had “bent over backwards” to try and help him after he went off ill to resolve his work-related issues, but he failed to respond.

The panel reserved its judgement to a later date.


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