Head accused of 'conflict of interest' after SEN child is hit

28th May 2010 at 01:00
She escapes censure over handling of incident in which female deputy with whom she was in 'personal relationship' struck pupil

A female head and deputy who are in "a personal relationship" have escaped a classroom ban after a pupil was hit during a playground argument.

During Jane Anderson and Daryl Raeburn's time in charge of a special school, children were restrained daily and the police "frequently" called, a General Teaching Council (GTC) panel heard.

The two women worked at Bredinghurst School in Peckham Rye, south London, for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Ms Raeburn hit the child on September 13, 2007 when supervising a lunchtime football game. Two children were arguing and she decided to "control" the situation by "flicking the air" near pupil A's face. She also said "I'm going to give you a clip around the ear" before accidentally hitting his head.

Ms Anderson was charged with failing to check the child's injuries, failing to "seek guidance" about the conflict of interest caused by her relationship with Ms Raeburn and failing to inform the chair of governors about the incident.

In her evidence to the GTC, Ms Raeburn said: "I approached him with every intention of hitting thin air but I did make contact with his ear which made a noise and surprised and shocked me."

The school's inclusion manager, Joanne Essien, reported hearing a slap and hearing Ms Raeburn say to the child she had not meant to hit him.

Imposing a reprimand on Ms Raeburn, the GTC panel said she had placed herself in a confrontational position.

"As the school's deputy headteacher and designated child protection officer, Ms Raeburn ought to have been modelling good behaviour," they said.

"Her actions, which occurred in the presence of pupils and another member of staff, demonstrated a failure to take reasonable care of pupils under her supervision with the aim of ensuring their safety and welfare."

The child was one of around 50 at the school with "challenging" needs, and teachers found it "difficult and stressful" to work with him. His mother did not complain about the incident and was supportive of the two women.

Ms Anderson, who told Ms Raeburn to contact the child's mother, denied that any of the charges against her amounted to "failures".

She only learned about the incident at the end of the school day, when the child had gone home.

The GTC panel agreed, saying she acted in the right way because the incident was an accident. Ms Anderson had sent them an e-mail saying she realised "she could have made other choices and different decisions but did what she thought was right at the time". She was not reprimanded.

But the panel said it was concerned Ms Anderson made a judgment about the issue when it involved someone "with whom she had a personal relationship".

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