Science head shocked by sex lesson claims: Teacher at Jewish school 'changed responses between two meetings'

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Indy Politics
(First Edition)

The former head of science at the Jewish school where a biology teacher was dismissed in a dispute over sex lessons said yesterday that he was 'gobsmacked' when he heard the allegations.

Vincent Pedley, 49, was dismissed over claims that he discussed masturbation and oral sex with 15- and 16-year-old pupils at the King David High School in Manchester.

The school governors claimed Mr Pedley was in breach of guidelines that he should have restricted his sex education lessons to the mechanics of human reproduction.

Arthur Marsland, head of science at the comprehensive school when the complaints were made in December 1992, told the tribunal he was at a meeting when the complaints were put to Mr Pedley.

'I was gobsmacked when I heard the allegations. I was shocked that such allegations could be made against a member of my department,' he said.

Mr Pedley, of Urmston, Manchester, claims unfair dismissal against the school and Manchester City Council.

He was also alleged to have told a mixed class he was 'turned on' and got an erection when he first taught sex education and that he encouraged pupils to ask questions about sex because he had a discipline problem in the classroom.

Mr Marsland said: 'Mr Pedley did say that he tried to do the sex education topic in an informal way in order to encourage questions from the pupils, to set them at ease as much as anything.'

He said he never witnessed any of the kind of behaviour referred to in the allegations.

The school's acting head at the time, Francis McDonnell, said the mother of one female pupil who complained kept breaking down in tears when she spoke to him, the head of campus and a school governor about the allegations.

'She found it very difficult speaking to three men and using the language that had allegedly been used in the classes,' he said.

When the allegations were first put to Mr Pedley at a meeting on 17 December 1992, he said his reaction was: 'Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.'

'He then said things had been taken out of context, that perhaps some of the language used shoudn't have been used with hindsight. In the future he would have to modify the language that he had used. He said some of the things were jokes and agreed they were in bad taste.'

He said Mr Pedley admitted that when asked by pupils if he found sex education embarrassing he told them he had erections.

Mr McDonnell suspended Mr Pedley because the allegations were so serious and it would not be fair on the pupils and Mr Pedley for him to remain on the premises.

At a further meeting, on 7 January 1993, with a union representative present, Mr Pedley totally denied the allegations.

'He totally changed his attitude and the responses he had given on 17 December,' Mr McDonnell said.

He believed that in biology only the 'mechanics' of sexual reproduction should be taught and moral and social aspects should be left to the Jewish studies department. But questioned by Peter Bentley, representing Mr Pedley, he admitted he had at no time instructed Mr Pedley concerning sex education lessons.

The hearing continues today.