My ordeal, by Christian teacher fired for offering to pray for sick pupil
By Jonathan Petre
Last updated at 1:04 AM on 21st December 2009

http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/arti ... lying.html


Comments (204) Add to My Stories Enlarge Distraught: Olive Jones said her dismissal 'was like a bad dream that had come true'
A Christian teacher fears she may never work again after she was sacked for offering to pray for a sick pupil.

Olive Jones, 54, said she had been made to feel like a criminal, and claimed that Christians were being persecuted due to 'political correctness'.
Mrs Jones, who taught children not well enough to attend school, said that after she raised the topic of prayer during a visit to a 12-year-old's house, the girl's mother lodged a complaint.
Just hours later, said Mrs Jones, her boss told her she would no longer be working for Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service, in Nailsea, Somerset.
She said managers had ruled her comments could be perceived as 'bullying'.
Mrs Jones had told the girl and her mother that there were people praying for them. She said: 'I asked the child if I could pray for her. She looked at her mother, who said, "We come from a family who do not believe", so I did not pray.'
Mrs Jones, who has two sons -one a Royal Marine, the other a student - said of her dismissal: 'I've been left devastated. I don't know if I will be able to go back to teaching in the same role. It would be very difficult.
A spokesman for North Somerset Council, said: 'A complaint has been made by a parent. This complaint is being investigated.'
Mrs Jones' dismissal has outraged Christian groups, who say new equality regulations are driving Christianity to the margins of society.

They said the case echoed that of community nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended last December after offering to pray for a patient but who was later reinstated after a national outcry.

Coincidentally, Mrs Petrie lives nearby and has been a friend of Mrs Jones for some years.
Speaking at her home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, Mrs Jones said: ‘Teaching was my dream from the age of 16. It is as if 20 years of my work, which I was passionate about, has gone. It is like a grief.
‘I have been sleeping badly and been in a daze. I haven’t even got around to putting up a Christmas tree or decorations. So much for Christmas cheer.’
'Twenty years of work is gone. I feel grief'
Mrs Jones shares her comfortable four-bedroom house with her husband Peter, who is also a teacher and heads the maths department at a local state secondary school.

The house provides few clues about her strong beliefs. There is a small wooden cross on one wall, a few plaques carrying religious texts, and some Bibles in the sitting room which she used in her studies for a diploma at the Pentecostal Carmel Bible College in Bristol.

She is a regular churchgoer, attending her local Church of England church most Sundays, but she also occasionally opts for more lively evangelical worship at the college.

After training to be a teacher at Aberystwyth University, where she met her husband, and a period bringing up her children – student Rob, 24, and soldier James, 23 – she returned to teaching in state secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

Oak Hill Short Stay School where Olive Jones worked. She lost her job after offering to pray for a sick child
Wanting to concentrate more on family life, she began a part-time job more than four years ago at the Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service North, which caters for children with illness or behavioural difficulties.

She had no formal contract but was scheduled to work to a timetable for about 12 hours a week at the school in a converted bungalow and one-storey prefabricated block in nearby Nailsea.


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She prepared lessons, taught and marked work for about six children between 11 and 16 who had problems ranging from leukaemia to Attention Deficit Disorder. In reality, however, pupils were frequently unavailable for lessons, and she says she often
found herself working as little as 20 hours a month.

As she was technically a supply teacher, she was paid £25 an hour plus mileage and had to submit a timesheet. While she was working, she was paid about £700 a month before tax and pension contributions by North Somerset Council, and received payslips.

Occasionally she would teach one or two sick children at their homes, and from September she made half-a-dozen visits to one child in a middle-class area who she was tutoring in GCSE maths.

Proud: Olive Jones with her Marine son James
On the fourth visit the girl stayed in her bedroom because she did not feel well enough for lessons, so Mrs Jones chatted to her mother and raised the subject of her faith, saying she believed God had saved her life.

The teacher said when she was a teenager she had been driving a tractor on the family farm near Carmarthen in Wales when it slid down a slope but came to a halt just before tipping over.

‘I shut my eyes and thought I was going to die,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘Then there was a sound of a rushing wind, like that described in the Bible, and then total stillness.

‘I was convinced it was a miracle. I shared my testimony to encourage the mother to believe that there is a God who answers prayer. I believe I have a personal relationship with God, who is a constant source of strength.’

'I was a total wreck, shaking and in shock'

Unbeknown to Mrs Jones, the mother complained about her comments to health authorities in the mistaken belief that they were her employers. It appears, however, that these criticisms were not passed on to Mrs Jones.

Unaware that there were any problems, Mrs Jones’s fifth lesson with the child passed without incident, but when she returned for her sixth session towards the end of last month, things went awry.

She said that although the girl came downstairs in her dressing gown, she could not face a lesson, so the three of them chatted over cups of tea about books they were reading. Mrs Jones once again referred to the incident involving the tractor and spoke about her belief in Heaven.

‘I told them there were people praying for them, and I asked the child if I could pray for her,’ said Mrs Jones.

Nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended for offering to pray for a patient. She was reinstated after a national outcry
‘She looked at her mother, who said, “We come from a family who do not believe