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Haye v General Teaching Council for England (2013) QBD (Admin) (King J)

Sarah Ellson
10/05/2013
The Appellant teacher, H, appealed against a prohibition order with a two-year minimum review, which had been imposed in accordance with the recommendations of the respondent's Professional Conduct The Appellant teacher, H, appealed against a prohibition order with a two-year minimum review, which had been imposed in accordance with the recommendations of the respondent's Professional Conduct Committee ("PCC").

H was a Christian had been employed by a school with students from diverse backgrounds with wide-ranging beliefs. The school's ethos was one of tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others. After being shown a video about homosexuality in assembly, H was asked in class for his views as a Christian on homosexuality. He answered by referring to the Bible. Days later, another student asked if it was true that H believed that people who attend church on Sundays worship the devil. H again answered referring to the Bible. The school investigated these events, and H was dismissed and his case referred to the respondent.

The PCC found that H's conduct had fallen significantly below the standards expected of a teacher in the English education system. Specifically, it was not his beliefs that were found to be inappropriate, but how these were manifested in the context of teaching in a school with students from diverse backgrounds, and his lack of insight into the inappropriateness of the comments made. The PCC considered that his lack of insight meant it was likely the incidents would be repeated.

H appealed on the basis that the prohibition order was unreasonable, unfair and disproportionate, in light of the fact he had not instigated the discussions about his beliefs and as there was no evidence of his comments having actually had a detrimental effect. It was also argued there had been a breach of his Article 9 right to freedom of religion.

The Appeal was dismissed, with the High Court holding that the reasons given by the Committee were impeccable. In relation to H's comments, what mattered was the potential for them have detrimental effect, and the Court noted that H's comments were said to be offensive, potentially insensitive and likely to undermine the values of the school. As a role model for his students H was expected to promote tolerance of the rights, faiths and beliefs of others. His comments had encouraged intolerance of homosexuality and attending church on Sundays as well as expressing negative views.

The prohibition order was found to be proportionate given the lack of insight displayed and the likelihood of repeat behaviour. It was a proportionate response for the need to protect the public's expectations of teachers. The two-year review period was the least serious form of sanction the PCC could impose. The PCC were also said to be right to say that if the Appellant wished to return to teaching, he would have to demonstrate genuine insight into the public perception of teachers as promoters of tolerance and respect for the rights and beliefs of others.

Finally, it was held that the prohibition order did not interfere with the Appellant's article 9 rights, as it was a proportionate response to his behaviour.

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