Sunday 21 January 2018

Teacher banned after putting arm around student's neck and 'jokingly' threatening to kill him after he got answer wrong

A teacher who put his arm around a pupil's neck while holding a knife and jokingly threatened to kill him for giving a wrong answer has been banned from the classroom for two years.

John Holmes, 53, carried out the threat during a lesson at Landau Forte College in Derby in the summer term of 2012.

A National Council for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) disciplinary panel heard the incident happened during a geography lesson.

The pupil, who is referred to only as Pupil B, was unharmed during the incident.

The panel hearing, which took place earlier this month, was told Mr Holmes was suspended from the school in April last year after the incident came to light.

The school, which teaches pupils from 11 to 19, investigated the incident and referred the matter to the NCTL.

The panel heard the teacher admitted his actions had been inappropriate but said the incident occurred "in a jovial manner". He left the school by mutual consent last August.

It also heard Derbyshire Police cautioned Mr Holmes for possessing an article with a blade or sharp point on school premises in relation to the incident.

After hearing all the evidence, the NCTL disciplinary panel concluded Mr Holmes was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

He was handed a two-year prohibition order.

In its findings, the panel said: "Mr Holmes accepts that using a knife in class is totally inappropriate.

"Mr Holmes made physical contact with Pupil B by placing his arm around Pupil B's neck, and then took his knife from his pocket and pushed it open so that the blade locked into place. Mr Holmes then made a pretend threat to kill Pupil B".

The panel said the incident was of a "serious nature" but accepted that there was no intention to cause the pupil harm and Mr Holmes had expressed remorse.

It said it accepted he had been in possession of the small knife on school premises "out of carelessness, not aggressive intent".

Giving the panel's decision to ban Mr Holmes, NCTL official Paul Heathcote said: "Mr Holmes's actions were not perceived by pupil B or other pupils in the class to be a genuine threat. Mr Holmes is an experienced and successful teacher, valued by the school and many of its pupils. His current employer has provided a positive testimonial.

"However, his conduct represents a serious departure from the personal and professional conduct elements of the teachers' standards. He was in possession of a bladed or pointed article on school premises and there is a strong public interest in deterring the carrying and use of knives in schools."

The ban means Mr Holmes is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth-form college, relevant youth accommodation or children's home in England for at least two years.

After July 15 2016 he may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside but a panel will need to meet to consider whether this is appropriate.

In a statement issued by the college, Stephen Whiteley, chief executive of Landau Forte Charitable Trust, said: "Following the reporting of the alleged professional misconduct of a member of staff, Landau Forte Charitable Trust, as a responsible employer, investigated and dealt with the matter under its staff disciplinary and safeguarding procedures.

"Following detailed internal and external investigations, appropriate employment procedures were then followed. Mr Holmes ceased to be employed at Landau Forte College as of 31 August 2013.

"In terms of the process concerning his status as a teacher, that was dealt with externally and independently by the National College for Teaching and Leadership. Although we are aware of the outcome and decision of that process, we have no further comment to make."

The Landau Forte Charitable Trust runs six academies in the Tamworth and Derby areas, including Landau Forte College.

Landau Forte College was founded in 1992 as a City Technology College, with its initial principal sponsors being Martin Landau and the Forte organisation. It became a City Academy on September 1 2006.

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