Two Bedford teachers are guilty of ‘unacceptable conduct’ - in examination prep and treatment at a special school

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A pair of teachers from two different Bedford schools have been found guilty of unacceptable conduct and bringing their profession into disrepute but have been given the green light to carry on teaching.

David Kendall, 58, used advance knowledge gained in his role with an examination body to prepare his Religious Studies students at Bedford Modern School for a forthcoming exam.

The other teacher, Michael Leishman, 48, was found to have breached Teachers’ Standards in a number of respects in his treatment of pupils at St John’s Special School and College.

However, in two separate decisions taken on behalf of Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, each teacher was spared being banned from the profession. Instead it was felt that the findings of unacceptable conduct were punishment enough;.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) found that, as a result of his additional role as an Assessment Qualifications Alliance (AQA) scrutineer - playing a key role in the finalisation of exam papers - and as Assistant Principal Examiner, Kendall deliberately set revision and mock exam questions that were similar to, or focused on, topics which he knew would come up in the pupils’ future examinations.

The NCTL findings say that Kendall was employed as the Head of the Humanities Faculty at Bedford Modern School since September 2008 but that, in 2012, it was noted that there was an unusual “spike” in the results of a Religious Studies module that he taught. He was ultimately dismissed by the school for “gross misconduct” in October 2013 and resigned from his role with AQA.

The panel said that it should have been clear to an experienced teacher of 35 years that he should not allow his “advance sight” of the examination questions for the module to affect the way in which he prepared his pupils for examination.

It added that Kendall failed to declare his role as a “scrutineer “ for AQA during the school’s initial investigation into his alleged misconduct, but did not consider this “dishonest”.

The panel said that some students were disadvantaged by Mr Kendall’s conduct in that their overall results were lowered due to the AQA considering that the marks achieved in the relevant module were unsafe. It added: “This affected the ongoing education of Mr Kendall’s pupils and has caused ongoing problems for the school and AQA.”

In Leishman’s case, the panel said that he gained qualified teacher status in July 1992, and during his teaching career has primarily worked in special schools. He began work at St Johns in 2009.

It found that, on 6 July 2012, when a pupil, (Pupil A) was attempting to stand, Leishman “prevented a member of staff from assisting” putting the girl at risk of harm by falling.

Leishman pushed his colleague’s arm away, saying: “She is ok on her own”.

The panel accepted Leishman’s explanation that his motivation was to encourage independence and that, having worked with Pupil A for some time, he considered it extremely unlikely that she would fall.

But finding his actions “inappropriate”, it said: “In removing an arm held out to Pupil A, the shift in support could have potentially placed Pupil A at risk of falling.”

On the same day, Leishman opened a cupboard door, which made contact with another pupil (Pupil B) who was lying on the floor, whilst on 5 December, during a PE lesson, he deliberately swung rope apparatus in the direction of the same pupil, accidentally striking Pupil B.

It found that Leishman then “showed little or no regard for Pupil B’s welfare and / or distress”.

On the same date, Leishman forced a third pupil (Pupil C) to “move on all fours across apparatus in circumstances that were without justification”, and acted inappropriately by physically positioning himself “on all fours behind and/ or over her”.

Then, on 14 March 2013, he told a Learning Support Assistant to move Pupil B physically by placing her hands on or above Pupil B’s hips and himself encouraged other pupils to move by using his forearm on their backs or bottoms.

Though disciplinary panel found a string of other allegations not proved, it said that Leishman had breached the Teachers’ Standards and that some of his actions “fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession”.

Giving the decisions in each case on behalf of the Secretary of State, NCTL official Paul Heathcote said that Kendall’s conduct had already had “serious consequences”.

But he continued: “He has been dismissed from his school and AQA has terminated its relationship with him. The panel have concluded that Mr Kendall does not represent a continuing risk to the education or well- being of pupils. They have accepted that prior to these events Mr Kendall had 35 years of unblemished service to the profession.

“He has demonstrated some insight into the situation, acknowledging the impact on the pupils he taught and expressing regret for those consequences. The panel have determined that a finding of unacceptable professional conduct is of itself sufficient in this case and that a prohibition order would not be appropriate. I agree with that recommendation.”

In respect of Leishman he said that the teacher had demonstrated “significant insight” into his conduct and that the panel did not consider there to be a continuing risk to pupils.

Mr Leishman has demonstrated significant insight and has properly considered how he would improve his practice if he were allowed to teach again.

Concluding that the findings against him were sufficient, and that no further punishment was needed, Mr Heathcote added: “He has a previous good record as a teacher and the panel observed a genuine enthusiasm for working with pupils with special educational needs.”