Teacher in job for six years ‘without full qualifications’

Suspended teacher Billy Russell
Suspended teacher Billy Russell
Have your say

A SCHOOL is under investigation after it emerged a music teacher it employed for six years was not fully qualified – leading to pupils being shown the film School of Rock to help them understand the blunder.

The Jack Black film, about a rock ’n’ roll fan who pretends to be a teacher, was played to bemused students at West Lothian’s Inveralmond Community High after their own music teacher, Billy Russell, was suspended.

Jack Black in The School Of Rock

Jack Black in The School Of Rock

It is alleged that Mr Russell was not qualified to teach at a Scottish high school, despite having been a member of staff for more than six years.

Mr Russell, described by pupils as “the best” on a teacher rating website, was immediately removed from his position after bosses discovered the error two weeks ago.

Online videos show Mr Russell playing guitar with his students at a charity rock concert, again mirroring the plot of the 2003 movie. Mr Russell even throws the guitar behind his head and begins strumming in a “rock ’n’ roll style”.

In one YouTube clip, Mr Russell even sings Deep Purple’s hit 1972 tune Smoke on the Water - the same song Jack Black teaches to his students in the film.

Mr Russell is accompanied by his music students while he sings the lyrics of the famous rock song, at one point thrashing out a guitar solo.

West Lothian Council said an investigation was being carried out as a matter of urgency.

A spokesman said: “An internal disciplinary investigation is currently under way and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Local Labour councillor Danny Logue dubbed the situation “shocking” and education experts said it was “highly unusual” and like something “from a film”. Councillor Logue, who is on the West Lothian education committee, said: “I’m absolutely shocked. I think with all the screening that goes on nowadays it should have been picked up. I don’t know how he managed it.”

Eleanor Conor, information officer at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said she had never come across a similar situation.

“There are procedures that should be in place but obviously something has gone wrong here,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s something for parents to overly worry about, I’ve never heard of anything like this before, apart from in a film.

“There are very strict procedures in place to follow [when it comes to checking teachers on the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s register]. You get these bizarre stories from time to time, but they are not at all common.”

Council leader and local councillor Peter Jones said it would not be appropriate to comment on the investigation while it is ongoing, but pointed out that further investigations would be carried out if needed and said a whole range of penalties including dismissal would be considered.

All teachers in Scotland must be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and any new appointments much be vetted and thoroughly checked by a school. Teachers are required to hold a teaching qualification, and must complete a course of initial teacher training and carry out a probationary period, which usually lasts for a year. Secondary school teachers must have a Higher English qualification (or equivalent) as well as a university degree.

It is not known what happened in the case of Mr Russell, or why the fact he did not qualify for the post remained undetected for more than six years.

Online comments about Mr Russell have been largely positive, with one student saying: “Go Mr Russell Best music teacher EVER.”

Another added: “Nice to see Billy Russell’s ‘trademark’ guitar playing skills behind the head! Good one Billy.”