Headteacher who neglected dog is barred for safeguarding failures

13th October 2017 at 13:43
Misconduct panel rules the headteacher ‘fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession’

A primary schoool headteacher has been barred from the teaching profession following a number of safeguarding failures.

Susan Horncastle, 62, former principal of Our Lady of Good Help Catholic Primary School, in Liverpool, was found guilty by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) of "unacceptable professional conduct" related to events that took place over a three-year period.

Ms Horncastle was found guilty of all accusations, including that she had:

  • Failed to inform relevant staff members that a pupil was not to be collected from school by anyone other than individuals named by the pupil's guardian.
  • Failed to take appropriate action in respect of safeguarding and/or child protection concerns she was made aware of, relating to domestic violence, unruly behaviour and pupil injuries. 
  • Failed in regard to other safeguarding and/or child protection concerns, including not providing feedback to staff members, not informing staff members of child protection concerns and failing to implement procedures, policies and further training within the school.


In a previous offence in October 2015, Ms Horncastle was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, for neglecting a West Highland terrier. For this, she had been given a three-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, as well as being ordered to pay nearly £1,000 to the RSPCA, in addition to court costs of £150.

While the dog in question was still alive while in her care, it was required to be put down because of being underfed, having an untreated ear infection and having an infected tumour.

Safeguarding failures

During the NCTL hearing, the panel identified links between her failure to adequately protect her dog and failing to protect the children in her care.

It stated that she "fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession" and found that her misconduct when presented with such clear evidence of pupils witnessing or experiencing violence in their homes showed a lack of leadership as well as "an abdication of her duty to protect the wellbeing of pupils".

The trial found that, "having found all allegations to be proven…the facts of those proven allegations amount to unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that might bring the profession into disrepute."

Ms Horncastle was prohibited from teaching at any "school, sixth-form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England". She can ask for the decision to be reviewed after four years.

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