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Headteacher of top-rated specialist school banned from driving

PUBLISHED: 13:27 12 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:00 12 August 2019

Eaton Hall Specialist Academy in Eaton, near Norwich. Picture Google.

Eaton Hall Specialist Academy in Eaton, near Norwich. Picture Google.

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A headteacher has been disqualified from driving despite arguing a ban could impact some of Norfolk's most "challenging" school children.

Keith Bates, who runs the highly-rated Eaton Hall Specialist Academy, was caught using his mobile phone as a sat-nav while driving in Gorleston last year.

The 48-year-old, of Sprowston Road, Norwich, already had six points on his licence for speeding at the time of the offence.

While Bates previously pleaded guilty, he returned to Norwich Magistrates' Court on Monday, August 12, to argue exceptional hardship.

Giving evidence, Bates said: "Alongside running Eaton Hall, which in itself is a fair old task, the real impact of me losing my licence would be on the wider work we do.

"I am required, every couple of days, to attend meetings all over Norfolk in support of children who are experiencing challenges in school placements across the county."

Bates, who has been a headteacher for five years, said the school, at Pettus Road, Norwich, works with some of the "most challenging children in Norfolk".

It includes young people with social, emotional and mental health difficulties. The school was last year rated as "outstanding" by education watchdog Ofsted.

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Bates told magistrates that children had avoided permanent exclusion as a result of his work. He added that a "huge number" were also at risk of criminal exploitation.

Prosecutor Neal Carr said Bates was caught driving while using his mobile on Shrublands Way on September 27, 2018.

Bates said he was driving a company vehicle at the time and was on his way to support one of his pupils who was in a mainstream school.

However, he said he was not familiar with the school and was using his phone as a sat-nav for directions when he was stopped by police.

Bates said he could not use public transport or rely on someone else to drive him to do his job.

But he admitted he would not lose his position if he was disqualified.

"I would be able to run the school still," Bates said. "But my exceptional hardship would be about the wider impact with the children we work with."

Magistrates decided against granting exceptional hardship, and disqualified Bates from driving for six months.

He must also pay a total of £463 to the court.

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