School leaders have voiced outrage after a primary teacher with an “unblemished” career was brought before a misconduct hearing over an isolated glue gun incident.
Sarah Mead was found guilty of “unacceptable professional behaviour and conduct that might bring the profession into disrepute” by a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel but avoided a teaching ban.
The then deputy head of Meridian Angel Primary School, based in North London and part of the London Diocesan Board for Schools Academies Trust, resigned in May 2022 after a year 6 pupil she was teaching sustained a “superficial burn” injury.
Mead, who did not have support of a teaching assistant and was juggling multiple jobs after SATs week, told the pupil to visit the medical room but forgot to follow the school’s procedures, such as contacting the mother, informing the headteacher or recording it in the accident book. Mead was also on gate duty and had to deal with a separate “high-risk” safeguarding issue on the day of the incident.
The pupil’s parent called 111 and took the child to hospital when they got home. The mother then posted about the incident on social media and reported it to The Sun newspaper before contacting the school to complain.
The parent also later reported the incident to the police report and began petitioning for Mead’s removal.
Mead was “unsure of the situation and ramifications” but agreed to resign immediately following a meeting with her headteacher as events had “picked up further pace” in the week after the incident.
Ban would ‘create a significant loss to the teaching profession’
In her evidence before the panel, Mead accepted a number of failings relating to her conduct prior, during and after the burn to the pupil had occurred.
But the TRA panel decided against banning the teacher after determining this was an “isolated incident in a long and otherwise unblemished career”.
“It was apparent to the panel that a prohibition in this case would create a significant loss to the teaching profession,” the ruling, published yesterday, said.
The panel described how Mead, at the time of the incident, was “attempting to undertake a number of highly pressurised roles and was also dealing with significant safeguarding concerns”.
These factors had a “material impact on the misconduct and whilst they did not excuse her actions, they significantly reduced her personal level of culpability in this case”, the ruling added.
Marc Cavey, ruling on behalf of the education secretary, agreed with the panel, saying publication of the findings “would be sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher as to the standards of behaviour that were not acceptable and that the publication would meet the public interest requirement of declaring proper standards of the profession”.
‘This is why we are losing teachers and leaders’
But school leaders have expressed dismay that this incident was taken as far as a TRA hearing.
Micon Metcalfe, the chief finance officer at the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust, posted the ruling on Twitter and said: “Good grief. I mean GOOD GRIEF. I feel very sorry for this teacher.”
History teacher Tom Rogers responded: “This is downright appalling and by the end of reading this I am raging.
“How in god’s name can an obviously great teacher be subjected to this. The UK has gone mad. The power in the hands of pupils, parents and media to ruin a teachers longstanding rep is criminal.”
East Whitby Academy principal Simon Smith added: “So much wrong here… The total lack of support from the head and trust. Asking the person to resign. The media and social bullying by the parent. The media sensationalising. The destruction of a committed young teacher.
“All involved should be ashamed.”
Another teacher said the level of abuse from the parent in this case is “why we are losing teachers and leaders”.
The DfE said it does not comment on individual teacher misconduct cases.