Our teacher clients often fear the public humiliation of having their mistakes exposed in the press even more that the prohibition that can be imposed. But even obvious errors can be properly understood by the Panel, other teachers and the wider public.
This summer we advised one of our union-referred clients to brace herself for adverse publicity. Our client was a dedicated and experienced Deputy Head but her misconduct was pretty clear cut. On a particularly fraught Friday after Year 6 SATs week was over and the children were on craft activities a child using a glue gun gave himself a small superficial burn near the end of the school day. He was unwilling to get first aid and she let it go, failing to log and report the injury or follow up with the parent. There was also inadequate risk assessment and supervision in the lesson.
By the time the child got home there was a tiny blister on his hand. The parent got medical treatment and then lodged complaints on social media, the TRA, the health and safety executive and the Sun newspaper. A legal claim for the injury also followed.
By the Monday the paper was chasing the story with the school. Our client was whistled in to a “protected conversation” by her head, apparently acting on the Trust CEO’s orders. She advised her to resign immediately and even told her not to speak to her union (this was sensibly ignored). However as she was both mortified and exhausted our client did do so. The Sun’s story was published the next day complete with photographs
A year later (which is very quick by TRA standards) the case came in front of a Panel. Our client fully admitted both charges the TRA usually bring: unacceptable professional conduct and conduct which may bring the profession into disrepute. The mother attended the hearing and gave evidence, including that she encouraged a local campaign to get rid of our client until she became aware of the resignation.
We presented detailed personal mitigation regarding the situation our client found herself in on the day and beforehand. The Panel listened carefully and sympathetically to that and in their decision noted it was “an isolated incident and our client was ”attempting to undertake a number of highly pressurised roles and was also dealing with significant safeguarding concerns” (she wore many hats in this small inner city school). They recommended no prohibition and the TRA bosses agreed; important for our client who had quickly picked herself up and carried on teaching.
Mindful of the Sun’s involvement we advised her to watch out for more adverse press, but then an amazing thing happened. The decision was first picked up over a weekend by teachers and their networks on Twitter and Facebook which then spread online to a discussion on Teacher Talk Radio. The focus was on the utter exhaustion all teachers feel and how easy it is for a mistake to occur and then be seized on, plus the injustice of her being quickly shown the door by the employer she had loyally served for many years. By the time the education and national press woke up to this on the Monday that was the story:
Oddly, that paragon of journalism that is The Sun never did publish the follow up…