A CATHOLIC school teacher has admitted sharing “a thousand rebel songs” with a colleague.
James Beattie sought out a probationer teacher during a break and loaded the nationalist music on to a hard disk.
But the rookie teacher at Our Lady and St Patrick’s in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, deleted the rebel songs and alerted the depute head.
A subsequent investigation led to the discovery of “Free Derry” postcards and a Bobby Sands mug in the Modern Studies teacher’s classroom.
The investigation, in October 2014, also uncovered a note, in Mr Beattie’s handwriting, with the words “hun town”.
Mr Beattie’s “inappropriate” conduct resulted in him facing several charges from the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) at a hearing in Edinburgh this week.
The teacher, who did not appear at the hearing but had legal representation, admits having the mug and postcards in his classroom “subject to explanation” and that sharing the music was inappropriate, but denies his fitness to teach is impaired.
Andrew Brown, education service manager for West Dunbartonshire Council, gave evidence to the hearing.
Mr Brown said: “The probationary teacher walked past Mr Beattie’s class and Mr Beattie asked him if he had his hard disk as he wanted to give him a thousand rebel songs.
“The probationary teacher confirmed that he didn’t want to upset or offend Mr Beattie so didn’t stop him from downloading the music onto his hard disk but deleted them immediately.”
Mr Brown was called to the school to investigate and took photos of a postcard and Christmas card with “Free Derry” written on them prominently placed on two large pinboards.
Mr Brown also took a photograph of a Bobby Sands mug on Mr Beattie’s desk.
He told the hearing: “The items displayed were sectarian. Kids are impressionable and without context these items would sit without explanation and that is inappropriate.”
Mr Brown added: “Mr Beattie confirmed the items were his and understands the serious nature of being associated to these items.”
When presenting officer Gary Burton asked if the investigation discovered who put the cards on the wall, Mr Brown said:“A teaching assistant admits to putting up the cards to ‘brighten up the room’.
“But they had holes in them which suggest they were up in a previous classroom too and Mr Beattie should have removed them.”
When Mr Burton asked Mr Brown where the mug came from, Mr Brown said: “Mr Beattie told me the mug was a gift from a janitor and remained in a cupboard for nine years.”
When pressed on how the mug came to be on the desk, Mr Brown said: “Mr Beattie didn’t know how it got there.”
The presenting officer asked Mr Brown to describe how the “hun town” note was discovered.
He replied: “A colleague found the note on Mr Beattie’s desk and photocopied them before bringing it to the attention of a senior colleague.”
Mr Brown added: “Mr Beattie told me that the note was left in his personal bag as there is no storage in his new classroom. And the teacher would have had to gone through his personal belongings.
“Mr Beattie told me the note was made whilst on the phone to a friend who he shares banter with and there is never any malice.”
The hearing continues.
Asked to comment on Mr Beattie’s hearing, West Dunbartonshire council said in a statement this week that they “expect the highest standards from all of its teachers and stipulates that staff must meet the requirements of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.”
West Dunbartonshire declined to comment on whether he is still employed by them.
But children at nearby Vale of Leven Academy, thought to be Mr Beattie’s current school, have set up an online petition to support him, describing him as “great” and claiming he “doesn’t deserve” his treatment. The petition has attracted 1,300 signatures.