Headteacher of top-rated specialist school gets driving ban lifted

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

Eaton Hall Specialist Academy in Eaton, near Norwich. Picture Google. - Credit: Archant

A headteacher successfully had his ban lifted for using a mobile phone while driving after a court ruled it could impact on some of Norfolk's most vulnerable 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, to attend a school meeting.

Prosecutor Martin Ivory said Mr Bates was caught driving while using his mobile on Shrublands Way on September 27 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.

He was given a six-month ban by Norwich magistrates after they decided against granting exceptional hardship but on Friday he appealed the decision at Norwich Crown Court.

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Giving evidence, Mr Bates said as well as running Eaton Hall, he also attends meetings all over Norfolk in support of children who are experiencing challenges in school placements across the county.

He said some meetings were called at short notice and said there was no other members of staff who could replicate his work helping vulnerable children,

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Mr 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.

Judge Andrew Shaw, sitting with two magistrates, allowed the ban to be lifted, although the six points will remain.

He said: "We take the view that vulnerable children in this county will suffer significantly if he was to lose his licence."

He added: "We were particularly struck that on the occasion he was using his phone, he was using it to get to see a vulnerable child at school."

However he warned drivers without sat-nav devices to plan their journey ahead or pull up on the side of the road to check routes rather than using a phone behind the wheel.

After the case Mr Bates said: "I'm pleased with the outcome in respect of being able to continue to support children around Norfolk in schools."

But he also said he completely took on board the comments of the judge about using a phone as a sat-nav and said: "I won't be doing it again."

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