A headteacher who failed to protect children showing “repeated and serious signs of neglect” has been banned from the profession.
Alexander Bowles, former head and designated safeguard lead at Great Hockham Primary School in Norfolk, ignored “repeated advice” that he should act on concerns about the pupils' safety, a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel found.
His inaction prevented two vulnerable children from receiving protection and support for up to two years.
The panel found that, between July 2016 and July 2018, Mr Bowles failed to keep safeguarding files for either of the pupils.
He chose not to refer one of the pupils to the local authority or multi-agency safeguarding hub, despite the fact that staff believed the boy may be suffering from neglect – and had reported such concerns on a number of occasions dating back to June 2017.
Mr Bowles also failed to refer the second child to the appropriate authorities until September 2018, contrary to advice from the academy trust following a visit two months previously.
Failure to support vulnerable children
Staff had reported concerns for the second pupil’s welfare on a number of occasions dating back to July 2016.
The panel found the headteacher failed to act responsibly despite “considerable ongoing and relevant training”.
“Mr Bowles was lead professional at the school and of paramount importance in such a role is the safeguarding of all children in the school, particularly those vulnerable to neglect,” it said.
“Despite this, Mr Bowles demonstrated inaction in relation to the safeguarding of two vulnerable children who had shown repeated and serious signs of neglect.
“His failure to act in relation to these two vulnerable children prevented them from receiving protection and support from external agencies for a period that could have been up to two years.
“The panel particularly noted that Mr Bowles' failures came about despite repeated advice from those more experienced than him in relation to such child safeguarding challenges.”
The panel noted that the former primary head had a previously good record, and is “clearly highly thought of by many local education professionals”.
However, it indicated that he had a “so far limited insight” as to the seriousness of his actions.
The panel recommended that Mr Bowles should be banned from teaching for a minimum of five years.
It said: “This will enable Mr Bowles to internalise and consolidate the realisation that he has recently come to with regard to the importance of effective safeguarding practice and the pervasive nature that safeguarding takes within any educational setting.
“This has the potential to counterbalance Mr Bowles' so far limited insight as to the seriousness of his previous failings and the importance, as an autonomous professional, of his responsibility to keep his safeguarding knowledge and practice up to date.”
The panel’s recommendations were upheld by Alan Meyrick, decision-maker on behalf of the secretary of state for education.