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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Cheating claims that fuelled a storm
Sarah Forsyth
Sarah Forsyth claimed she wrote some of Harry's coursework
An art teacher who hit the headlines with claims staff at Prince Harry's public school cheated to help Prince Harry pass his art AS exam has had an unfair dismissal case upheld against the college.

But it rejected a separate unfair dismissal claim and threw out her claim of sex discrimination, as well as dismissing the suggestion she had been asked to help Harry cheat

When junior art teacher Sarah Forsyth found out she was being sacked from her job at the prestigious Eton College in the summer of 2003, she did anything but go quietly.

Rather than simply accept the 10,000 payment on offer and walk away, Ms Forsyth, who had taught Prince Harry, returned fire by alleging teachers had cheated to help the royal pupil pass his art exams.

When this failed, she took the school to a high profile employment tribunal, making more exposures and sensational newspaper headlines along the way.

Ms Forsyth first raised her claims in a letter to the school in 2003, around the time Harry was due to sit his A-levels.

Taped conversation

The tribunal heard that she had seen head of art Ian Burke, finishing a piece of the prince's AS coursework - which counted towards his A-level - a year earlier.

She also said she had written text to accompany Harry's pictures, which was later submitted as his work.

When the school failed to respond to her letter, she said she cornered the prince on his way to an A-level exam and recorded a conversation in which she said he admitted to writing little of the text, the tribunal heard.

Prince Harry poses with some of his artwork
Prince Harry posed for press photographs with his artwork

Giving evidence at the hearing in Reading, Berks, amid intense media interest, she claimed the prince was a "weak student" who needed help.

But she said the assistance given by Eton staff went further than the usual help offered by teachers, with Mr Burke sometimes working on his artwork in his absence.

She told the hearing some pieces, photographs of which were even printed in newspapers as Harry's work, had been completed by a teacher.

She also claimed to have written, on Mr Burke's instructions, five pages of text for Harry's AS coursework journal.

She said she was not happy about this at the time but did not complain because she feared she would be victimised.

At the tribunal, Mr Burke dismissed her claims as a "pack of lies", saying he had only ever helped Harry stick a canvas together.

While admitting the prince had needed help with written work, he denied telling Ms Forsyth to cheat for him.

Ian Burke
Ian Burke denied bullying Sarah Forsyth

He said he only asked her to help him come up with "descriptive terms" to explain the link between his coursework and its inspiration - a move the school described as "part of good teaching".

Though the cheating allegations were the main attraction for the media, the school insisted they were irrelevant to the tribunal, as Ms Forsyth had only raised them once she knew she was losing her job.

They claimed her motivation was to force the college to increase the 10,000 payment she had been offered.

At the hearing, she admitted the move was a desperate attempt to save her job by "putting a gun to the headmaster's head".

'Bullying claim'

But she said her intention had been to force the school to take previous complaints she had made against Mr Burke seriously.

She claimed the decision to sack her followed months of bullying by Mr Burke, about which she had complained to no avail.

She said he had questioned her teaching abilities, accused her of favouritism towards certain pupils, left her out of meetings and threatened her.

Eton pupils, including Prince Harry (centre)
Prince Harry was a "weak" student at Eton, Ms Forsyth said

Ms Forsyth also claimed sexual discrimination, saying she would not have been subjected to this treatment had she been a man.

And she maintained the "Prince Harry mess" was a factor in her dismissal.

Mr Burke and the school denied all these claims, saying she was sacked simply for being a poor teacher.

Deputy headmaster the Reverend John Puddefoot painted a picture of a "dull and passive" teacher who was "at best semi-articulate" in the classroom.

'Puerile' subjects

It was as if her pupils were being "taught by a zombie", he added.

Mr Burke criticised the "puerile" subject matter of her lessons and her use of "dark and sinister side to the imagery, dwelling on death, horror and blood".

For his part, the school's headmaster, Anthony Little, told the tribunal he had been "very shocked" to learn Ms Forsyth had taped a conversation with the prince moments before he entered an exam.

This alone, he said would have been grounds for dismissal for gross misconduct.

But Ms Forsyth's lawyer said the school had driven her to this course by ignoring and belittling her concerns.

Profile: Prince Harry
16 Jun 05 |  UK

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