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Teacher reprimanded after pupil hurt by glue gun at C of E primary school

08 August 2023

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A TEACHER described as “outstanding” by her colleagues has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct after an isolated incident with a glue gun at a C of E primary school.

The pupil’s mother reported the matter to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), the police, and the newspaper The Sun.

Sarah Mead was deputy head teacher at Meridian Angel Primary School, Enfield, in north London, when a pupil in a Year 6 class that she was teaching sustained a small burn on his hand while using a glue gun.

A professional-conduct panel, convened by the TRA last month, heard that she admitted the facts of the allegations: that she had allowed pupils to use glue guns without adequate supervision, and that she had failed to respond appropriately to the incident. The panel ruled that this amounted to unacceptable professional behaviour and conduct that might bring the profession into disrepute. While she was found guilty on both counts, the panel concluded that recommending the imposition of a prohibition order by the Secretary of State was not appropriate and would create a “significant loss to the teaching profession”.

The report sets out the facts of the incident, which took place on 13 May last year. Ms Mead was teaching a Year 6 class, which she had split between three rooms, which she was supervising by turns. At the time, she was also the school’s designated safeguarding lead. She did not have the support of a teaching assistant. She had shown one of the groups how to use a glue gun safely after they asked to use it, and explained later to Pupil A how to use it.

At the end of the day, one pupil told Ms Mead that Pupil A had “hurt” himself and on inspection she could see that there was a small blister on his hand. She told him to visit the medical room, but he “refused”. She also told him to run his hand under the tap in the toilet. She was required to be on gate duty that afternoon, and, as Pupil A left to return home, she told him to show his hand to his mother.

Ms Mead was then involved in a “high-risk safeguarding issue with some other vulnerable pupils” who had not been collected. Dealing with this until 4.30 p.m., she was not able to deal with Pupil A’s issue straight after school, and forgot to follow the school’s procedures (contacting the mother and head teacher, and recording the accident).

When Pupil A returned home, his mother phoned 111, and was advised to take him to hospital. A clinical summary sheet from the hospital’s emergency department described the injury as a “superficial burn”, with “two tiny blisters”. Treatment with Vaseline and over-the-counter pain relief was prescribed.

During that weekend, Pupil A’s mother wrote on Twitter about the situation, and, on the Saturday, she reported the issue to The Sun, which, on 17 May, ran a story (“Sticky issue: I’m furious after my son,10, burnt his hand at school using a glue gun — I didn’t find out until he got home”). On the Sunday, she complained by email to the London Diocesan Board for Schools Academies Trust, to which the school belongs.

On the Monday, Ms Mead met the head teacher to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, the school had started to receive enquiries. The chief executive of the Trust emailed Pupil A’s mother to offer an apology, and explained that an investigation was under way. The head teacher of the school also emailed Pupil A’s mother.

At the end of the school day, the head teacher had a conversation with Ms Mead, in which her position at the school and the situation was discussed. Ms Mead was told that HR advice included “that she consider resigning her position”. The report states: “Although Ms Mead was unsure of the situation and ramifications, she agreed to resign immediately.”

Over subsequent days, Pupil A’s mother reported the incident to the police, the TRA, and the Health and Safety Executive. She also started an in-person petition, collecting signatures outside the school, to have Ms Mead removed from the school, and began a process of bringing a civil claim.

In her evidence before the panel, Ms Mead accepted the allegations in full. The panel noted that she was “attempting to undertake a number of highly pressurised roles and was also dealing with significant safeguarding concerns”; but it found her guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute. It concluded, however, that recommending the imposition of a prohibition order by the Secretary of State was not appropriate, stating that “a prohibition in this case would create a significant loss to the teaching profession.”

Among the “mitigating factors” were that she had made full admissions and expressed genuine remorse. The “clear theme” in evidence from the head teachers at her current and former schools was her “resolute dedication to the teaching profession and to pupils”. Both had said that Ms Mead “constantly gave all that she could to her roles, despite the numerous challenges that working at school in a deprived area of North London presented. This was a isolated incident in a long and otherwise unblemished career.”

The head teacher at her current school described how Ms Mead had been fully transparent about the incident: “Sarah’s honesty, integrity, and openness immediately built trust with me and enabled me to unequivocally make the decision that, along with Sarah being an outstanding practitioner, Sarah was a trustworthy professional.”

Another teacher described her as “always the teacher I wanted to go and observe to learn from, and high-quality teaching was so natural to her. She is a naturally outstanding educator and every child in her classroom adored her and would hang on her every word.”

Meridien Angel Primary School was established in 2014 by the London Community Learning Trust, a partnership between St John the Evangelist, Edmonton, the London Diocesan Board for Schools, and the Southover Partnership.

Safeguarding information on the school’s website provides an insight into the safeguarding challenges that Ms Mead was dealing with as DSL. It describes the school as a “fragile community” in an area of high deprivation, with a high turnover (typically one third of the school changes each year, owing to families’ moving out of the area from temporary accommodation), and local challenges such as drug use and anti-social criminal activity. More than 40 per cent of the pupils are eligible for free school meals.

The chair of the school’s governing board is the Vicar of St Peter with St Martin, Edmonton, the Revd Tina Kelsey. This year, Ofsted upgraded the school from “Requires Improvement” to “Good.”

The Church Times has contacted the school, the Trust, and the Revd Tina Kelsey for comment.

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