Supervisor who gave cigarettes to teenagers sees threat of ban extinguished

15th January 2010 at 00:00
GTC allows teacher to remain in profession despite putting badly behaved pupils' welfare 'at risk'

A teacher who supplied children at risk of being excluded with cigarettes while in charge of a unit for badly behaved pupils has escaped a ban from the profession.

Over the course of a year between 2007 and 2008 Jane Eccles also provided teenagers at Sir Christopher Hatton School in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, with matches so they could smoke.

The school has a strict no-smoking policy and a General Teaching Council for England (GTC) panel said Mrs Eccles had put children's safety and welfare "at risk", as well as bringing "the standing and reputation of the profession into serious disrepute". She has since been dismissed for gross misconduct.

Mrs Eccles was supervisor of Sir Christopher Hatton's in-school exclusion unit, a silent room where pupils are sent on a part-time basis if they misbehave. Teachers there have called the case "extraordinary and isolated".

In a letter to the GTC Mrs Eccles admitted giving cigarettes to two pupils from Years 9 and 11 approximately six times while on school premises. Sir Christopher Hatton rules say children caught smoking will be sent home for two days and further action may be taken.

Other teachers noticed her supplying the cigarettes and Mrs Eccles was immediately suspended and banned from entering the school.

At a hearing she was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and breaching "the standards of propriety and trust expected of the profession".

But she escaped a ban, despite not defending her actions.

"Unfortunately, Mrs Eccles had not produced any evidence by way of mitigation, whether by way of a statement or relevant testimonials and references," the GTC panel said.

"However, the committee acknowledges that Mrs Eccles has accepted that her actions were entirely inappropriate, had therefore shown insight and had shown genuine contrition. Furthermore, there was no evidence before the committee to suggest that Mrs Eccles had anything other than a good history."

The reprimand will stay on Mrs Eccles' record for two years.

The governing body of Sir Christopher Hatton, a secondary comprehensive school, said the safety and welfare of children was taken "very seriously" and it supported Mrs Eccles' punishment.

School business manager Colin Hinds, who gave evidence to the GTC, said: "This was an extraordinary and isolated case, the likes of which the school has never seen in its history.

"Our parents rightly expect school staff to be the best possible role models for their children and our parents should be reassured, not only by the swift and appropriate action the school has taken in this case, but also by the high standards of care and professionalism that our dedicated team of staff exhibit every day and which must be maintained."

Mrs Eccles is a trained teacher, but was working in a support staff role as "exclusion room leader" when at Sir Christopher Hatton School.

Children are sent there following "serious" bad behaviour as an alternative to suspension.

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