Head quits after second 'touching' allegation: Teacher reinstated after suspension could sue after new claim by parent

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A HEADTEACHER who was suspended and reinstated after sitting a five-year-old girl on his knee has resigned after fresh allegations were made about him.

Richard Connor, headteacher of Alderley Edge Primary School in Cheshire, successfully appealed against his governors' decision to dismiss him.

He returned to school last week after a six-month suspension but on his first day back a parent made a fresh allegation that he had touched a child in an inappropriate manner.

Last night the local authority, Cheshire County Council, said that their inquiry into Mr Connor's conduct would not be continuing after his decision to resign.

A spokeswoman for the authority said that he would not return to his job, and that the school's governors would begin the process of appointing another headteacher. She added: 'It is in everyone's interests that the school should now return to normal as quickly as possible.'

The case was unusual because in addition to being given a final warning before being allowed to return, Mr Connor was instructed not to touch any child and not to teach any class until a school policy on 'appropriate touching' had been drawn up. He was also told that he must not take any groups of pupils for lessons outside the classroom or conduct assemblies on his own.

The dispute began six months ago when Mr Connor, who had been at the school for 11 years, comforted a child who became upset in assembly by putting her on his knee.

The school's governors suspended him, and told parents in a letter that he had 'failed to appreciate and acknowledge the perception which pupils had of these actions and contacts'. As a result, they said, they no longer had trust or confidence in him. However, an appeal panel reinstated him, adding a list of conditions to its decision. The panel, which was made up of governors from other schools not involved in the recommendation to dismiss Mr Connor, agreed that he had acted inappropriately, but decided it still had confidence in his abilities as a headteacher.

The day after Mr Connor returned to school last Monday, a parent made fresh allegations against him, which he strongly denied. His solicitor said he was considering legal action for defamation. Since then he has been on sick leave, suffering from stress.

Pressure for him to resign increased this week when staff at the school wrote to the local authority saying that they had no confidence in him and that he should go. At the same time, parents who supported Mr Connor set up a petition to have him reinstated. They said he had been 'hounded out by political correctness' and that the new allegation had only increased sympathy for him.

The row has heightened the fears of teachers' organisations, which say that under the Children Act, allegations made by pupils against school staff can be blown out of proportion. In more than one case, such allegations have later proved to be false.

Last night Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Mr Connor's union, said the case was 'very alarming'.

'The police have studied all the evidence and they have neither prosecuted a case against him or cautioned him, and yet he has been forced to resign. If the allegations had been provable, presumably a case would have been brought forward,' he said.