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About Me

Big Brother 2012 house mate, single Dad, actor, singer, personal trainer, stripper, adult entertainer, public speaker, activist, columnist, presenter and former secondary school teacher. Canadaphile, Francophile, atheist, fighter for freedom and tolerance, real child protection, sexual liberalism, European integration and abolition of the monarchy.

Monday, 12 September 2011

My written statement to the General Teaching Council

Below is a copy of my written statement to the General Teaching Council, submitted as part of my evidence to the GTC in preparation of, and consideration in, their hearing against me.  It is not a written version of my oral statement that I gave on the day:

I am not going to deny or dispute any of the facts of the case: 

Yes, I engaged in communication with a number of Year 10 students.
Yes, I undertook work of a pornographic nature.
Yes, I performed as a stripper in public places.
Yes, I owned a website which contained details of my work as a stripper.
Yes, I left voicemail messages on the Assistant Head Teacher’s telephone on the 4th July.
These are the indisputable facts.

However, much of this case does not hinge on fact, but on perception.

I am simply going to challenge a perception and interpretation and to offer an alternative point of view.

Let me also state that, whilst there are many aspects of the profession that I deeply enjoyed and am grateful to have spent almost four years within, it was my intent, when tendering my resignation, not to return to teaching.  This is still my intention.

Let me start by focusing on what I believe to be the most important role of a teacher and what the focus of the General TEACHING Council should be: his/her role as a ‘teacher’. 

As a teacher, I definitely had faults.  I was not the most organised or the most thorough.  Sometimes I arrived in the classroom after the bell.  Occasionally I raised my voice at students.  Now and then I forget when I was supposed to be on lunch or break duty.  But, despite my faults, I believe I was an inspirational and knowledgeable teacher who provided thought-provoking, enjoyable and challenging lessons.  I went out of my way to ensure that I took an interest in each and every one of the pupils I taught.  As was the nature of the subject of which I was a Head, I also ensured that my PSHE lessons fostered an environment whereby students felt comfortable to talk, discuss and share opinions.  As a result, I was also a member of staff that several students felt they could come and talk to about a variety of issues and concerns.  I do not apologise for this in any way. 

I contributed to the school community on many levels and was an active participant in many events throughout my time there.  As a record of some of the things that I was involved in whilst at Beal High School, I have compiled the following list:

-       organising the very first sexual health day fair to be held in a borough school
-       participant in three school musicals
-       participant in at least two school music concerts
-       organised sixth form trips to the Houses of Parliament
-       starting and running of the Jewish Society
-       introduced the East London Out Project (ELOP) into the school to aid in the combating of homophobia
-       introduced the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy as visitors into PSHE lessons
-       introduced Ashiana, an Asian women’s charity, as a visitor into PSHE lessons
-       allowed the ‘Romance Academy’ to hold workshops
-       hosted a show on Radio XL which included visitors from ELOP, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, Hope Not Hate and Ashiana
-       set up an international schools twinning project with each tutor group of a specific year group
-       member of the school choir
-       hosted, upon request of the media department, the school’s media awards event
-       hosted, upon request, two school talent shows
-       accompanied trips to Germany, France and Spain

On top of these achievements, during my almost three years employed at Beal High School, as well as being the Head of PSHE & Citizenship, I was also teacher of A level Politics, GCSE Religious Studies, GCSE Sociology and lower school teacher of French, German and History.  In the academic year 2009-10, I was responsible for the on-going teaching of six subjects in total.  I knew of no other teacher at that school, or any other I had ever worked in, who was charged with anywhere near that number.

I do not believe that I can therefore ever be accused of having taken my role of a teacher lightly.  I was committed, capitalised on my skills and talents and took on more than my fair share of responsibility, perhaps even when I should have pushed back a little and said ‘no’.  But no-one can ever accuse me of not being an enthusiastic, pro-active and positive member of the teaching staff.

But this case has absolutely nothing to do with my teaching.  No reference has ever been made to what I did in the classroom or in my role as a teacher within the school day.

This case is not about teaching.  It is about the perception of the role of a teacher within society and the perceived impact his/her ‘private’ life can or cannot have on the institution, its students and on said society.  All of which is entirely subjective.

In this case, the main thrust of the case is the extent to which an individual who is employed as a teacher could be, or indeed should be, involved in the acts of pornography and stripping outside of his/her work hours.

I am not here to argue whether pornography is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  There are arguments both ways, but there is no evidence to prove either the positive or negative effects of pornography on an individual or on society.  It is simply a matter of opinion.  We all have our own opinions and values.  I live my life according to what I deem is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, the General Teaching Council must come to its own conclusion about what it deems ‘right’, ‘wrong’ and ‘acceptable’.  I believe it would be remiss of me if the General Teaching Council were to reach this conclusion without taking on-board the full range of views and opinions, accompanied by the relevant evidence to support these views.

In order for you to state that a teacher who involves him/herself in pornography is guilty of “undermining public trust and confidence in the teaching profession” you must therefore have evidence to prove this assertion.  If there is no evidence then it is simply a matter of opinion.  It is my opinion that it does not undermine public trust and confidence in the teaching profession.  However, this is just an opinion.  I will be providing evidence to support this opinion, to demonstrate that it is an opinion shared and supported by many and to demonstrate that there is indeed increasing evidence to demonstrate that there is an increased acceptance of such behaviour across the board within British society.  This is not proof of this assertion, but evidence of a shared opinion.
I will also be raising questions about, and highlighting inconsistencies in, your allegations and in the conduct of my previous employer and of the General Teaching Council, reviewing past cases where precedent may have been set and similar examples from other schools.

Whether you agree with it or not, since leaving Beal High School, I have remained in contact with many students from the school.  The majority of which communicate with me via Facebook.  They have absolutely every right to do so and so do I.  I have had countless students, and several parents, message me with messages of support.  I have had several others who have come to me with questions, concerns, problems and seeking advice.  No I am not a qualified counsellor, or doctor, or therapist.  I am an ex-teacher and most importantly a human being who cares and clearly, a human being that many of those people feel they can confide in and trust.

I defy anyone, anywhere in any capacity whatsoever to find any evidence to prove that I have harmed or abused a young person be it physically, sexually or mentally.  I am perfectly happy to accept that sometimes I behave in ways that some may deem ‘immature’ and ‘overly familiar’.  I accept that I have done, do and am happy to continue talking to young people about matters of a sexual nature.  But no-one can ever accuse me of abuse or involving myself either sexually or romantically in any anyway with a young person in any jurisdiction.

Beal High School, Redbridge Borough Council, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Child Welfare office of Hackney Council have all conducted their own investigations into me and have discovered no evidence at all to prove that I should not be permitted contact with or responsibility over young people.  Indeed, Hackney Council, in consulting with Redbridge Council and Beal High School, are entirely satisfied that I am able to look after a 17 year old boy who is currently in my care.  A boy who was an ex-student at Beal High School, who continually reported physical abuse by his step-father, was subsequently sent to Pakistan where he was further physically abused and sexually assaulted and then contacted me out of desperation in order to assist him.  A boy, who was told by his former Head of Year only weeks before he was sent to Pakistan, that he was lying about the situation at home.  A boy who was continually failed by Beal High School and Redbridge Borough and who, out of sheer desperation, has turned to me because he felt he could turn to no-one else.

It is also noteworthy that the member of staff who was this child’s Head of Year is the same member of staff who, from the moment I was a Beginner Teacher at Beal High School, disliked the fact that I had, what she called, an ‘over-familiar’ approach with the students and, as it also so happens, is the same member of staff who was my Head of department for Politics and Sociology but gave little to no support in either subjects whatsoever save for collating predicted results and in carrying out two lesson observations in my last year, the only lesson observations I ever received by any member of staff while at Beal High School.

In response to the specific allegations laid against me:

1. engaged in communication with a number of Year 10 students via text messge, email and Facebook, which was inappropriate because it fell outside the boundaries of the professional teacher/student relationship.

This was addressed over a year before I left.  I admitted absolutely to these charges and the school decided, at that time, to give me a final warning on the basis that I did not repeat the offence (which I did not between the time I was given the warning and the date that I was suspended) and to offer me counselling, which I took up.  If the school had decided that this warranted dismissal and a recommendation for proceedings with the GTC, they should have decided that at the time.  I fnd it utterly disgraceful and inappropriate that this is taken into consideration at this hearing.  It is, in my opinion, an attempt at clutching at straws in an effort to seal my guaranteed and likely removal from the register. 

I have very little more to add to these allegations that I did not already cover when the investigation was conducted back in 2009.  However, I have included, as part of the evidence, messages I received from Student A, the main student involved in the investigation, after she voluntarily contacted me soon after I was suspended.  While this evidence does not in any way take away from the fact that I was the adult and that I did indeed communicate with students in Year 10, it is evidence that goes somewhat against some of the sentiments that Student A expressed during the investigation.

2. you undermined public trust and confidence in the teaching profession by:
            a. undertaking work of a pornographic nature;
            b. performing as a stripper in public places;
            c. owning a website which contained details of your work    as a stripper;

It seems to me that there are several other issues which need to be considered in determining if taking part in pornography constitutes professional misconduct or conduct likely to bring the profession or professional institutes into disrepute.

Firstly, there is the issue of if someone did discover my participation, whether they would be offended by that. Presumably, the main way someone would discover my participation would be if they viewed pornography, which, in this country, you must be 18 or over to do legally. It seems to me to be highly unlikely that a consumer of pornography would be offended by the porn, and therefore the nudity and sexual intercourse, they are viewing or would consider the participation of someone in the porn as being morally wrong. Certainly social and cultural attitudes towards pornography are more accepting at present- so much so that the Liberal Democrats had a female candidate (Anna Arrowsmith) in the 2010 general election who is a director of porn films. Political parties generally try to avoid situations which they consider scandalous or likely to cause public outrage. It seems to me to be a reflection on current cultural and social attitudes that a political party is happy to endorse a candidate who has a long involvement in the porn industry. Furthermore, this candidate actually had an increase in votes from the previous general election for her party’s candidate which seems to me to be an indicator of the public attitudes towards pornography and those involved in pornography.

Secondly, there is the issue of whether someone who did discover my participation in the porn would consider this as a reflection on the profession of teaching or any institute that I might be involved in. I tend to think that people are more sensible than this, and cannot see how if someone did find out about my involvement how they would consider it to be any reflection on my profession, on any institute I am associated with, or indeed any reflection on my professional competence. As it stands, any participation I have had in porn (or any other aspect of my personal life) bears no relation to my professional competence.

My understanding is that ‘bringing the profession into disrepute’ would most probably apply to certain criminal activities and criminal convictions. In this instance, no criminal act has taken place. Might I also add, that I never approached any representative of any media outlet in the first instance.  My first involvement with the media was after The Sun, closely followed by the Daily Express, had been tipped-off and then hounded me outside my property.  The only people who were aware of my situation were employees of Beal High School.  When I enquired as to who had notified the newspaper, I was simply told that it was a member of the school.  I also never mentioned the name of the school in the first instance.  When I was asked to name the institution by the journalist from The Sun, I refused.  She quickly researched on the internet on her mobile device and asked me if it was “Beal High School?”, to which I responded, “If you publish that, it was not me who told you”.

Since then, I have indeed made numerous public appearances, for which I do not apologise in any way.  I am happy to offer any media outlet who is interested in my story an alternative perspective on the opinion that what I did and do is wrong.  For, as I stated earlier, this is not about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ it is about perception.  As well as participating in interviews for various forms of press across the world, I have been invited by the BBC on ‘Sunday Morning Live’ and ‘The Big Questions’, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Queen Mary College and the University of Cambridge Union to participate in debates about the issue of pornography and sex.  Interestingly, the students of the elite University of Cambridge passed the motion that ‘porn is good for society’.  Clearly, if a majority of the most intellectual of our society believes in the virtues of pornography, it cannot simply be dismissed as an activity that ‘undermines public trust and confidence’.

Therefore, various questions need to be raised if this is indeed the conclusion that the General Teaching Council is wanting to arrive at.

What is it about an individual who works as a teacher and participates in pornography and/or stripping that ‘undermines public trust and confidence’?  Is it the activity itself or the knowledge of the activity which is the problem?  If so, why would or should any human being be ashamed of being viewed in a state of nudity or in the act of sexual intercourse except for the fact that it has become a cultural ‘norm’ for human beings in this society to think along these lines, without any real justification or rationale except for a widespread embarrassment that many human beings in this society share if and when they are viewed in such a manner?

Why does the GTC find this form of legal activity unacceptable but tolerates other, but equally (if not more harmful) activities amongst its registered members?  (Including smoking, drinking, over-eating,cage-fighting and being a Dominatrix, among them.)

From where, which belief system or institution does it derive its value system to reach the conclusion that participation in these activities ‘undermines public trust and confidence’?  Is it based on a religion (if so, which one and why?), or is it based on the adherence to societal 'norms' (if so, where does it collate its evidence to support this majority-backed opinion)?  And if it is based on their support of what they believe to be a majority-based opinion, would they therefore admit to pandering to a 'mob rule' mentality?

More crucially, why is pornography perceived as something that is worthy of a sackable offence in the context of other regularly committed (and tolerated) offences by teaching professionals?

Where is the consistency in the opinion and actions of the General Teaching Council and where is the evidence to support the conclusion?

3. left inappropriate voicemail messages in the Associate Head teacher's telephone on 4 July.

I do not believe any of the message(s) I left to be inappropriate.  Obviously, I was somewhat emotional and reactionary at the time, although perfectly polite and civil and I raised various points and questions which I considered at the time, and still now, to be extremely relevant.  I do not apologise for raising them or raising them in the manner that I did.  I have every right to express myself, my concerns and my opinions in whatever manner I see fit. 

I am grateful to the General Teaching Council for giving me the opportunity to voice my concerns and giving me the opportunity to express my objection to the allegations laid against me. 

However, whilst I recognise that there are far more important issues confronting the world and, indeed, the teaching profession and the education system today, I believe this case has raised some important questions about perceptions, norms, priorities, common sense, hypocrisies, double-standards, rights and privacy, that should be addressed across our society.  I very much doubt that this case will be concluded in my favour, but, whatever the decision of the General Teaching Council as a result of this case, I am happy to raise these questions and to continue raising these questions in whichever forum I am invited to participate in the future.

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