A Cambridge science teacher who covertly filmed a documentary exposing apparent attempts to deceive school inspectors acted in the wider public interest, her lawyer has told a misconduct hearing.
Alex Dolan, who is appearing before a General Teaching Council (GTC) panel accused of unacceptable professional conduct, also believed the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary would help pupils by exposing appalling classroom behaviour.
During his opening remarks to the panel, Ms Dolan’s barrister, Clive Rawlings, said she had decided to make the film so that the public could see “what was really going on in schools”.
The film, made at four schools in Leeds and inner London, was broadcast in 2005 and showed some pupils fighting in class and running on tables, and others swearing in the face of teachers and refusing to work.
It had been cleared for broadcast by a High Court judge who refused to issue an injunction sought by Leeds City Council after ruling that it served important public interests.
Rawlings told the panel: “She considers that she acted fairly and in the wider public interest by exposing to the public the amount of damage done by poor discipline. There is no allegation before you that she performed badly as a teacher because she was filming, nor that she incited any poor behaviour or incited staff to reveal deceptions that they felt were taking place.”
Rawlings said it was disappointing that the GTC chose to pursue Ms Dolan, the messenger, rather than to address the serious issues raised by the film.
Dolan came from a family of teachers, he added, and had decided to make the film after discovering “poor practice” and significant disruptive behaviour while working as a full-time secondary school teacher for two years and then as a supply teacher.
The GTC panel, sitting in Birmingham, was also told that the teacher-turned-journalist went undercover because she encountered widespread disruptive and anti-social behaviour in classrooms and teachers who admitted that badly-behaved pupils were hidden or sent home during school inspections.
After legal submissions held in private on Monday, the GTC panel ruled that the publication of the schools’ names, which are already in the public domain, could have a potentially adverse impact on pupils.