Should a teacher be sacked for writing about his/her pupils?

7 July 2009

Leonora Rustamova was suspended from her post as English teacher this January because she wrote a book about her pupils. At first glance, it sounds monstrously unfair: a teacher tries to motivate the disaffected teenage boys in her class by writing a book about them. Initially, her headteacher was very supportive of the plan, but then had second thoughts when a senior teacher complained. Rustamova published the book on the internet, claiming that this was a mistake. She also named her pupils with their real names, claiming that some of them had sexual fantasies about her. Furthermore, soon after the pupils left the school, she invited the pupils for a barbecue and they slept over in the same house with her, staying in the house of another teacher. The other teacher was sacked too.

Calder High School in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, has been caught up in a media firestorm with this story. The school has remained tight-lipped though, pending an hearing with the GTCE (General Teaching Council for England).


At first, I felt sympathetic for Rustamova, but the more I listened to her on the Radio 5 interview, the more I felt she was being disingenuous. She claimed that she wasn’t aware that putting the book onto a self-publishing website would mean that it wasn’t widely available. She didn’t seem to think inviting the pupils for a sleepover was wrong — or even naming them. One pupil went on air to defend her. Again, this felt weird. The boy appeared as though he hadn’t fully processed the incident.

Links to the story:


I appeared on Radio 5 Live talking about the case and explained that Rustamova had blindly published the book without thinking about the consequences, that it felt too much like an ego-trip rather than a genuine educational strategy, that she shouldn’t have invited the pupils for the sleepover or named the pupils.

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