GCSE students performed to a group of family and friends; the performance depicted incest, child abuse and rape. The teachers allegedly failed to inform attendees of the sensitive material. Some audience members became distressed and, in a couple of cases, even physically sick.
The unnamed teachers have challenged the decision, claiming that they have been unfairly dismissed. The Employment Appeal Tribunal, led by judge Lady Smith, decided that an initial decision which had ruled in the teachers’ favour was ‘perverse’ and that the material had been ‘age in-appropriate’ and the cases would have to be re-heard.
The local council’s safeguarding manager viewed a DVD of the performance and claimed the piece was ‘offensive, disturbing and potentially abusive’.
Teaching Drama contributor Susan Elkin said in response in an article for The Independent: ‘He [the safeguarding manager] watched a DVD of the performance and expressed shock that the students were “allowed to engage in such sexualised behaviour”. They weren’t. They were acting. And acting means that you pretend to be something that you’re not in a very controlled environment. Actors – whether professional or amateur, young, middle aged or old – are NOT the roles they play or the actions they depict.’
Both teachers have put forward statements from audience members who felt that the performance had been a positive experience and they claimed that there was ‘no cogent evidence’ of any harm to the students who devised the piece.
The case will continue in a new employment tribunal hearing for both dismissed teachers.