Derby teacher banned from classroom after pulling knife and ‘jokingly’ threatening to kill pupil for getting answer wrong

John Holmes prohibited from teaching in UK for two years following knife incident

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The Independent Online

A teacher in Derby who put a pupil in a headlock, pulled out a knife and threatened to kill him “for a joke” has been banned from teaching in the UK for at least two years.

John Holmes, 53, was teaching a geography lesson at the Landau Forte College academy in the summer term of 2012 when he issued the threat during a “light-hearted quiz at the end of a lesson”.

When a Year 8 pupil, who has been identified only as Pupil B, got a question wrong, Mr Holmes put his arm around the child’s neck, took a knife from his pocket and “pushed it open so that the blade locked into place”.

A National Council for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) disciplinary panel accepted that the “pretend threat” was made in “a jovial manner”, and that his actions “were not intended as or perceived as a genuine threat by Pupil B or other pupils in the class”.

The incident nonetheless saw Mr Holmes suspended from the school and cautioned by Derbyshire Constabulary for possession of “an article with a blade or sharp point on school premises”.

And he has now been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and handed a two-year prohibition order.

The school, which teaches pupils from 11 to 19, investigated the incident and referred the matter to the NCTL. The incident only came to light in April 2013, and he left the school by mutual consent the following August.

In its findings, the panel said Mr Holmes “accepts that using a knife in class is totally inappropriate”.

It said the incident was of a “serious nature” but accepted that there was no intention to cause the pupil harm and Mr Holmes had expressed remorse. It also accepted that the geography teacher had been in possession of the small knife on school premises “out of carelessness, not aggressive intent”.

Giving the panel's decision to ban Mr Holmes, NCTL official Paul Heathcote said: “Mr Holmes is an experienced and successful teacher, valued by the school and many of its pupils. His current employer has provided a positive testimonial.

“However, his conduct represents a serious departure from the personal and professional conduct elements of the teachers' standards. He was in possession of a bladed or pointed article on school premises and there is a strong public interest in deterring the carrying and use of knives in schools.”

The panel found that Mr Holmes’ police caution, “pretend threat” to Pupil B and the fact that he breached the terms of his suspension by contacting teachers about the incident altogether constituted conduct “which brings the [teaching] profession into disrepute”.

It added that Mr Holmes had “failed to recognise the full implications of his action” in terms of the example a teacher is expected to set for children.

The ban means Mr Holmes is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth-form college, relevant youth accommodation or children's home in England for at least two years.

After 15 July, 2016 he may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but a panel will need to meet again to consider whether this is appropriate.

Stephen Whiteley, the chief executive of Landau Forte Charitable Trust, said the college had followed “appropriate employment procedures” in Mr Holmes’ case.

Mr Whiteley said the college had no comment to make on “the process concerning his status as a teacher”, but said: “Mr Holmes ceased to be employed at Landau Forte College as of 31 August 2013.”