Teacher sacked for offering to pray for sick pupil

A Christian teacher dismissed from her job after offering to pray for a sick pupil said today she felt she had been treated like a criminal.

Maths teacher Olive Jones was let go from her job teaching children who were too ill to go to school after visiting the home of a pupil for a lesson and discussing her faith with the girl's mother.

The girl was too poorly for the lesson so instead Mrs Jones, 54, spoke about her belief in miracles and asked whether she could say a prayer, but says when the mother said they were not believers she did not go ahead.

A complaint was then made by the mother that Mrs Jones' comments had distressed her and her child.

As a supply teacher who did not have a formal contract, Mrs Jones was told her services were no longer required just hours after the visit on November 25.

Mrs Jones, whose youngest son is a Royal Marine who has served in Afghanistan, has worked part-time at the Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service North in Nailsea, North Somerset, for almost five years but has been teaching for more than 20 years.

"If I had done something criminal, I believe the reaction would have been the same," said Mrs Jones, from Weston-super-Mare.

"It is like a black mark against my name and character when it comes to getting a reference for another job, just because I shared my testimony, as if I committed a criminal act.

"I simply wanted to encourage them to be open to prayer but if they did not want to then I would never force it down their throat."

She was timetabled to work for 12 hours a week at the school for children with ill health or behavioural problems, sometimes visiting youngsters at their homes.

Mrs Jones had been speaking to the mother, over a cup of tea, about the time she felt God had saved her life.

She recounted an experience as a teenager when she was driving a tractor on the family farm and it slid down a slope but came to a halt just before tipping over.

"I talked about the tractor and miracles and the mother did not stop me or look cross, so I continued," she said.

"It was only when I mentioned prayer that the mother said I do not want prayer, we do not believe, so I did not go ahead."

Mrs Jones left the house on what she thought were good terms and arranged the next lesson.

When she returned to the school she was called in to her manager's office, where she was told that sharing her faith with a child could be deemed to be bullying.

"I was in complete shock, I was trembling," she said.

"I'm not out to get anyone, I am angry at their interpretation of freedom of speech.

"I am amazed that a country with such a strong Christian tradition has become a country where it is hard to speak about your faith.

"Our country was made great because of its Christian values, but now we have to water down our faith."

Mrs Jones trained to be a teacher at Aberystwyth University, where she met her husband Peter who is also a teacher, heading the maths department at a local state secondary school.

She has a diploma from the Pentecostal Carmel Bible College in Bristol and is a regular churchgoer, attending her local Church of England church as well as the college.

The couple have two children, student Rob, 24, and soldier James, 23.

She said: "My faith is not just on a Sunday, my behaviour and attitude to life reflects my faith.

"If I did not have faith I would not be able to cope with my son being a marine."