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Former Norfolk principal banned from classroom after allowing boy with sex offence reprimand to work at school without checks

PUBLISHED: 12:39 11 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:53 11 April 2018

Cheryl Hill. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Cheryl Hill. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

The former principal of a Swaffham high school has been banned from the classroom after allowing a young man with a previous reprimand for a sex offence to work and study at the school without appropriate checks or supervision.

Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham. Picture: Ian BurtNicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

A teacher misconduct panel has issued a prohibition order - with a five-year review period - for Cheryl Hill, a former principal at the Nicholas Hamond Academy.

The panel heard that on January 23, 2013, a young man - referred to as Mr X in the report - received a reprimand relating to inciting a child under 16 to engage in a sex act, an incident from April 2012.

He is understood to already have been taking on voluntary work at the school since November 2012, which progressed into paid employment in March 2013, before he attended the school as a student in the 2013/14 year.

While Mr X and Ms Hill are not blood related, the panel heard that the two were “incredibly close”, with Ms Hill providing care “similar to that of a parent”.

The panel said that Mr X was “no longer of school age”.

Despite his previous reprimand, the panel found that reference checks were not requested until March 2013 and a DBS certificate and risk assessment was not undertaken until June.

The panel found that the academy’s safeguarding officer and Mr X’s line manager were not given full information about his history, along with the chief executive, who Ms Hill told that the “police had given Mr X a warning for being ‘silly’”.

MORE: Principal dismissed following serious breaches in applying safeguarding procedures

The academy’s vice-principal at the time said he was asked to undertake a risk assessment on the Mr X in June. He did not ask to see the DBS check, which he accepted was “reckless and negligent”.

The panel also found that Ms Hill failed to ensure Mr X was monitored adequately while working at the school.

While at the academy, Mr X and a pupil developed “some sort of relationship”, which was discovered by Ms Hill. Despite his role as an employee, it was not reported to the relevant authorities.

A report published after the panel said it centred around communication on social media, with the “vast majority” sent by the pupil.

It resulted in Mr X resigning from his paid position at the school, but remaining on the student roll.

And in March/April 2016, the panel heard that the student pleaded guilty to a further offence, from January 2014, which resulted in him being put on the sex offenders register in July 2016. He then temporarily moved in with Ms Hill.

Ms Hill reported the offence to the academy in August, which led to an investigation and her suspension.

At the time, the academy said the incident did not involve any of its pupils.

The report said that in that time between the offence and being put on the sex offenders register, Mr X lived 120 miles away and had been removed from the academy roll for non-attendance.

The panel said her conduct “appeared to be for the benefit of Mr X”, to “ensure he felt included during an extremely vulnerable period of his life”.

“In the panel’s view, Ms Hill’s conduct was completely out of character and she allowed her professional judgement to be swayed by her personal wish to assist a person with whom she had an incredibly close relationship for a great number of years,” they said.

“There was no evidence of any similar lapse of professional judgement during Ms Hill’s long and exemplary career.”

Dawn Dandy, on behalf of the secretary of state, issued the prohibition order, and said Ms Hill, who started working at the school in November 2012, can apply to have the order lifted in five years.

The Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), which runs the school, said Ms Hill was dismissed as principal in October 2016 when the issues came to light.

“Ms Hill confirmed her understanding of the legal requirements in her witness statement which the panel took into consideration when reaching their decision,” a spokesperson said:

“ATT has been working closely with the academy since this incident, including a full safeguarding review in the academy in October 2016 and regular monitoring and training with staff to ensure effective safeguarding practices and a positive culture and ethos towards safeguarding.

“Ofsted and the local authority have also agreed in their recent visits that the safeguarding policy and procedures are effective. The safety, happiness and achievement of pupils remains our highest priority and we will continue to provide excellent opportunities for pupils.”

They said they were looking forward to welcome a new principal Mark Woodhouse to the school later this month.

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