History teacher Roy Huggins can't stop having night terrors. The last episode was two weeks ago. His wife Julie reached out to him as he lay beside he
History teacher Roy Huggins can’t stop having night terrors. The last episode was two weeks ago. His wife Julie reached out to him as he lay beside her shouting and screaming in bed.
‘I just try to calm him like this,’ says Julie, rubbing his shoulder gently. ‘I say, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK’ and try to stop him because sometimes he jumps out of bed. It’s been terrible. We’ve had several times over the last few months where you felt your heart was going to explode, haven’t we?’ Julie’s anguish for her husband is writ large on her face.
For the past two months, Roy, a truly dedicated, 54-year-old teacher who hasn’t so much as received a verbal warning in his outstanding 32-year career, has been worrying himself sick as he faced an investigation by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which has the power to ban teachers from working with children.
His crime? Telling a class of 11 and 12-year-olds, during a science lesson about how a body changes in puberty: that women have wider hips to allow them to child bear and men have broader shoulders to carry their extra muscle.
Being the sort of gifted teacher who contextualises learning, he gave examples about the size his grandson Joey was at birth and how his 23-year-old son Thomas gains muscle more easily in the gym than he can, as an older man, with less testosterone.
For the past two months, Roy, a truly dedicated, 54-year-old teacher who hasn’t so much as received a verbal warning in his outstanding 32-year career, has been worrying himself sick as he faced an investigation by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which has the power to ban teachers from working with children (Pictured with wife Julie)
He also drew upon his experience as a history teacher, explaining that archaeologists identify a male and female skeleton by looking at the size of the hips and the shoulders. In short, he told the children biological facts.
But, unknown to Roy, who was working part-time as a supply teacher at Retford Oaks Academy in Nottinghamshire and was filling in for an absent colleague, two children in the class had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Several pupils lodged complaints about ‘inappropriate’ comments he made in the lesson which caused offence.
Two weeks later he received a letter from the DBS stating: ‘We have received information from Retford Oaks Academy about allegations of a safeguarding concern about comments made whilst teaching a class.
‘We are now considering whether to include you in one or both barred lists [the Children’s and/or Adults’ Barred Lists]. Inclusion in either or both of these lists will prevent you from engaging in regulated activity.’
After previously being graded by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good to outstanding’ in 27 inspections, Roy was sent into such a state of shock by the letter, his legs would not support him and he fell to his knees.
Roy’s crime was telling a class of 11 and 12-year-olds, during a science lesson about how a body changes in puberty: that women have wider hips to allow them to child bear and men have broader shoulders to carry their extra muscle (Pictured with wife Julie)
‘I’d come into an empty house and opened this letter. I stood over there.’ He points to the sitting room doorway in this warm home that has the photographs of a happy family life on the walls. ‘My heart just literally jumped. It was like being kicked from the inside. I was stood up and fell to my knees.
‘The shame, the embarrassment of what they’d done to me was such that I wondered what people would think of me.’ There was a moment — that moment — when you think about suicide but you know that those thoughts are irrational. I knew I had to be with someone.
‘Julie was teaching so I texted my daughter [Rebecca] and said, ‘Sweetheart, I need to see you now.’ She was in Costa, with my grandson Joey, seeing a friend so I went there.
‘I was just hurting, hurting inside. It was so painful. I just asked to hold my grandson. I was looking at him with all my might trying to assuage this pain inside of me.’
He hands me a photograph his daughter took at the time. The sheer anguish ages him a decade. ‘I was holding that little boy to save my life. He stopped me from sort of leaving. I wanted to die. I held him saying to myself, ‘I need to be here for you.’ You’re clutching onto an anchor which is life.’
Roy is the sort of no-nonsense man who, as he says, ‘calls a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel’. He does not easily weep but his eyes are wet with tears now.
Roy was working part-time as a supply teacher at Retford Oaks Academy in Nottinghamshire and was filling in for an absent colleague
Last week Roy was rightly cleared. ‘Elation’ is the word he uses to describe how he feels, but there is fury, too. For the next five years, he must declare to any future employer that he has been investigated by the DBS.
‘I now have this question mark over me for the next five years even though I was found innocent,’ he says. ‘I have to report I was investigated over an issue of abuse. People might think I have somehow fiddled with a child, hit a child or sworn at a child. Wherever I go I have a slur on my reputation.’
He looks at me. ‘I was only filling in for a teacher who hadn’t turned up. That class had been unsupervised for 40 minutes. I asked the Head of Science if I could teach something else when I went to the classroom because I’m not comfortable teaching that sort of subject. Normally, I’d avoid classes about sex education like the plague. They’re a minefield these days.’
As a father of two grown-up children and grandfather to a five-month-old with 25 years of marriage under his belt Roy is no prude, but, as Julie, who has taught in primary schools for 35 years, points out, times have changed. ‘You can’t say breastfeeding any more, you have to say chest feeding,’ she says. Roy raises an eyebrow. ‘Boys can apparently chest feed,’ he says.
‘You can’t say vaginal birth. It’s frontal birth,’ Julie, 56, continues. ‘And there are so many different identities — about 62 or 63 different genders.
‘For many teachers it’s quite a lot of new information. Twenty years ago, there wasn’t any of this information.’
Roy agrees. ‘The Government used to set the curriculum and teachers tailored it to fit their students but now academies run by interest groups pick and choose what parts to follow and dictate how it’s to be taught. In some academies, if you deviate from their programme you receive a warning. Three warnings and you lose your job.
He read from a national curriculum textbook about the physical changes to the bodies of boys and girls during puberty and provided some additional explanation to help the pupils at Retford Oaks Academy, pictured
‘What’s happening is that, like the Civil Service, they want you to have right thinking.
‘I’ll give you an example. Every Monday after school we have guest speakers who come in to give us training for an hour and a half. One said: ‘If you’re over 50 and white you benefit from white privilege’. I said: ‘I came from a really poor working class background and worked hard to get where I am.’
‘They told me that white privilege is the fact that when I go into a shop, people aren’t staring at me because I’m black, thinking I might be a shoplifter.
‘I said: ‘I just see a black person.’ It’s weird. I don’t understand it. Going into a school now I feel seriously out of date. Since Covid it’s become normal to see boys walking round in skirts and tights dressed as girls.
Roy adds: ‘There was a lovely RE teacher who was only about 21 who, every day after school, used to cry because the kids were so horrible to her. I used to say, ‘Don’t worry. It’s just experience. Give it time and you’ll establish a relationship.’
She said: ‘Roy, you’re so unwoke. You don’t get gender do you?’
‘I said: ‘No, I don’t. But I won’t discriminate against anyone’.’
Roy didn’t have a clue he’d upset children in that science class until the next day when he was driving home from the Academy, which is part of the Diverse Academies Trust and works with Stonewall ‘to promote the wellbeing of children who identify as LGBTQ+’, and received a call from his supply agency.
Despite being cleared he has never received an apology and must inform any school of the investigation if he applies for work in future
‘They said there had been a complaint. They wanted to email it because they didn’t want to tell me over the phone.
‘That was shocking. You start thinking, ‘What have I been accused of? Have I been accused of some sort of sexual inappropriateness? What have I done?’
‘I was quite terrified. I got home, dashed upstairs, logged onto the computer and two minutes later it came through.
‘I read it and thought, ‘Really? Is this how my career is going to end?’ ‘
He was accused by ‘several students’ of saying, ‘boys must be muscly to attract girls’, ‘boys must start at the gym at 12 to get muscly’, ‘girls get hips to allow them to child bear. Something all women should do’, ‘stay away from women at the time of the month,’ ‘boys should be clean shaven and girls must shave too’, ‘make sure you smell nice to attract the ladies’.
Roy points out that the task the class was set was to design a poster explaining the changes that boys and girls go through during puberty, using the information in the textbook.
He responded to the claims in an email, maintaining the comments were either taken out of context or ‘untrue’.
Roy Huggins, 54, pictured, a history teacher with more than 30 years’ experience, filled-in for an absent colleague to teach a class of 11 and 12-year-olds
He ended his statement, which was passed on to the local authority safeguarding body, with the words: ‘I feel my conscience is clear and that I have not done anything wrong.
‘I am always happy to reflect and learn from my mistakes, but I am at a complete loss over the allegations that have been made and why they were not addressed at the school level as they are pretty laughable.’ Four days afterwards, on March 28, common sense prevailed. He received a call from his supply agency to tell him he’d been cleared by the local authority which had been critical of the school for raising the complaint.
‘I hadn’t slept for days. You lose your confidence. You become frightened. You start second guessing everything you do. You think, ‘Is there really something wrong with me? Should I be put in front of a class of children?’
‘I kept telling myself I was going to be cleared — that there shouldn’t be any problems — but my emotions were all over the place. When the agency told me there was no case to answer I was emotionally drained. Then they said the head teacher didn’t want me back in the school. That was a slap in the face. I knew people there. I had relationships there. They didn’t want me back on site. That hurt.’
And the academy’s headteacher wasn’t prepared to leave the matter there. He referred the complaint to the DBS, plunging Roy into what can only be described as a dystopian nightmare.
When approached by the Mail, a spokesperson for Retford Oaks Academy issued a statement: ‘At all times, we follow the national curriculum and therefore strongly refute the claim of a radical agenda being pursued. As such, we do not recognise the account of events as described.
He was so ‘embarrassed’ about the accusation he only told his wife Julie, right, a primary school teacher
‘If, as happened here, a concern or complaint is made by any individual, we will always take such matters seriously. In the event of an allegation about the professional conduct of a member of staff, it is standard practice in all schools to seek and follow the advice of professional bodies.’
Yet Roy says he still feels betrayed. ‘If you were to ask me what my Achilles heel is, I probably would say pride. I am proud of my career and reputation
‘I’ve worked in some of the toughest schools in South Yorkshire, in former pit villages where the children were suffering with everything from county lines to deprivation. You couldn’t imagine a tougher place to work but I went to work every day in those schools.
‘I was offered a deputy headship. I got offered jobs at other schools, I served that community and I went the extra mile for 27 years because I signed up to be a teacher to make a difference.
‘I’ve written seven or eight textbooks and have led training sessions in Edinburgh, London, Birmingham, Paris and Toulouse. Can you imagine the shame of being investigated for this?’
Julie touches Roy’s shoulder. They didn’t tell a soul about the investigation, such was Roy’s humiliation. ‘He’s been so up and down, snapping over little things. It isn’t him. You didn’t feel good at all, did you?’
He shakes his head and his eyes are red-rimmed again.
‘I felt I had been badly let down by the system. I was very much a lapsed Catholic before this started but found myself being drawn back to the Church. Instead of going once or twice a year I started going every week. I felt so low I wanted some sort of spiritual strength to get through this difficult time and to try to understand it because you question everything, all your fundamental beliefs about kindness, relationships, loyalty and trust. I’ve been thinking, what mistakes did I make?
‘The conclusion I’ve come to is that none of this makes sense unless you have an agenda. Maybe it’s some sort of social change that is the agenda. Who knows.’
He shrugs. ‘When I got the letter saying I was cleared I was going to meet a friend who’s a teacher for a coffee. She’d been checking up on me every day. She told me I had to tell someone about what had happened. So, ten days later, I emailed the Daily Mail because all I, all any of us, have left, is free speech.’ For now.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk