Teacher didn't take proper action over ‘pupil threatening to kill himself’

Children in classroom

A disciplinary panel found a Norfolk teacher had interfered with the safeguarding process by failing to properly pass on concerns. - Credit: PA

A Norfolk teacher who failed to properly pass on safety concerns about pupils has been allowed to remain in the profession after a panel decided she has ‘acted with good intentions’ and not received proper training. 

Louise Ayres, who had been employed by the Norwich-based Engage Trust since 2005, was suspended in October 2018 pending an investigation into allegations she failed to report concerns directly to staff responsible for child protection issues.

A teachers’ disciplinary panel heard when the education trust opened a new short-stay primary school in July 2018 it was accepted that staff handed records of concern and significant incident forms to Ms Ayres.

But she placed them in a locked filing cabinet in her office rather than passing them on directly to the school’s designated safeguarding leads.

As a consequence the panel found she had “failed to take appropriate action” over concerns that one pupil said on the last day of term he was “going to jump off a building” and kill himself during the summer holidays.

They also found she failed to properly alert safeguarding leads that another pupil had said his parents “smoked cocaine and weed” and that another was anxious and upset at going home.

None of the pupils came to harm. 

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Giving evidence Ms Ayres said she had attempted to alert child protection leaders by phone.

But in its report the panel said this did not amount to taking appropriate action as she had not read the forms and was not familiar with the details.

“The panel did not consider placing the record of concerns and significant incident forms in the designated safeguarding cabinet to be passing on the disclosures and concerns, even though the designated safeguarding leads had a responsibility to check the cabinet for such forms,” it added.

Ms Ayres was found not to have acted inappropriately over five other allegations involving safeguarding issues.

The hearing had been told staff at the new school had been working in a “disorganised, stressful environment” and there had not been robust safeguarding procedures in place during July 2018.

Noting she had not received adequate training, the panel decided against banning Ms Ayres from teaching stating that while her actions were deliberate, she had “acted with good intentions”.

The Engage Trust, which ran the Short Stay School for Norfolk for pupils excluded from mainstream schools, merged with the Dereham-based Unity Education Trust in 2020 following a difficult period during which it was left with a £1.2m hole in its finances.

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