Luton teacher banned for unauthorised wrestling lessons

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A Luton teacher who arranged private maths and wrestling sessions for muslim pupils has been banned from the country’s classrooms.

Azam Zia, 37, who taught maths at Icknield High School, Luton, from July 2013 to March 2016 was found guilty by a teachers disciplinary panel of “unacceptable professional conduct” which could bring the teaching profession into disrepute.

The National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) panel that heard the case in Coventry, found a string of allegations against him proved.

The ban, imposed on behalf of Education Secretary, Justine Greening, is an indefinite one. But the way has been left open for Zia to seek to have it lifted after two years. However, to do this he will have to prove to another NCTL panel that he is fit to return to teaching.

The panel found, that among other things:

> that he : arranged out of hours maths and wrestling sessions without telling the school authorities;

>failed to obtain consent from some parents and allowed others to believe the school had authorised the sessions;

>gave practical instructions in wrestling; allowed pupils to settle disputes between themselves by wrestling;

>charged pupils £15 to £20 a session; and contacted pupils about the sessions through social media.

The hearing was told that all the pupils who attended were all muslim boys though Zia claimed he had approached both female and non-Muslim pupils who were, therefore, aware of the sessions but opted not to attend.

He said that he had intended to offer tuition sessions to the wider school once they had become established and successful.

The panel found that neither he nor another person who had helped in the wrestling training were trained to instruct wrestling and that they were not insured for what they were doing.

The NCTL findings also say that Zia failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with pupils and that his actions could also have had an impact on the safety and security of pupils.

And they add that although he had admitted the allegations against him he had “demonstrated limited insight into his conduct.”Imposing the ban on behalf of the Education Secretary, Alan Meyrick, Deputy NCTL director, said : “In my judgement the lack of insight means that there is some risk of the repetition of this behaviour and this risks future pupils’ welfare and safety.”

He added that he had placed considerable weight on his “lack insight or remorse” and considered that a ban was “proportionate and in the public interest.”

Recomending that Zia should be entitled to seek to have the ban lifted after two years he said emphasized that it would not be lifted automatically and that if he failed to convince a panel that he was fit to return to the classroom he would remain banned indefinitely.