Headteachers: Head who shook pupils and withheld their shoes as punishment keeps job

18th September 2009 at 01:00
Threats to wash kids' mouths out with soap earns school leader GTC reprimand

Original paper headline: Head who shook pupils and withheld their shoes as punishment keeps job

A head who shook pupils, ordered them to go without shoes and threatened to wash their mouths out with soap has been allowed to carry on working.

Kanta Riley was trying to stop pupils kicking or using abusive language, but her methods of discipline left children feeling demeaned, according to a General Teaching Council panel.

The former head of Beaconsfield Primary in Southall, west London, was also accused of calling two pupils "thieves and liars" during an assembly, failing to deal with a cockroach infestation, unfairly reprimanding a colleague and not allowing a medical autoinjector on site, but the GTC panel said these allegations could not be proved.

The panel said Mrs Riley was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. A reprimand will remain on her record for two years.

Mrs Riley took hold of and shook two pupils by the arm in September 2005 while telling them off. The practice of removing shoes as a punishment lasted from 2003 until 2005, and in June of that year three pupils were ordered to take off their shoes and be without them for part of the day. She repeated this practice in October 2005.

Mrs Riley admitted that she often told children their mouths "needed to be washed out" when they were swearing or using abusive language and that the idea was prompted by a piece of "joke" soap she kept on her desk. But the GTC panel said there was no evidence that she forced pupils to do this.

Mrs Riley denied calling pupils thieves and liars, a claim made by a member of staff who also made the other allegations. Another member of staff said he could not remember this incident.

The teaching council dismissed allegations that Mrs Riley failed to pass on child-protection information about one of her pupils to her special educational needs coordinator as there was insufficient evidence.

Mrs Riley also denied failing to deal with a cockroach infestation. She said she had brought the problem to the attention of the school caretaker, who didn't manage to get rid of them all.

And she insisted that she allowed the autoinjector, used to treat a pupil's allergy, to be kept in school, but in a medical room rather than the classroom.

Mrs Riley further denied contacting the head of another school to undermine the career of a colleague, Monica Anand. The panel said there was no evidence of this, nor that she unfairly reprimanded Ms Anand in September 2005. Mrs Riley said she had criticised Ms Anand's planning at a meeting.

"Although we accept that the removal of children's shoes was intended to be a sanction to deter kicking, it was nevertheless a practice that could lead to children being demeaned," the GTC panel concluded.

On the threat of washing mouths out with soap and water, the panel said: "We accept that although Mrs Riley did not intend to carry out the threat, this may not have been interpreted as such by the children. It was inappropriate for a child to feel the threat of such a physically intrusive act.

"While not condoning Mrs Riley's actions, there was no evidence that (her) conduct seriously affected pupils. We have also taken into account Mrs Riley's previous good history."

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