Backlash over glue gun misconduct hearing

Teacher with ‘unblemished’ career avoids ban but is found guilty of ‘unacceptable professional behaviour’

Teacher with ‘unblemished’ career avoids ban but is found guilty of ‘unacceptable professional behaviour’

Teaching Regulation Agency

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.

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  1. What an absolute farce! Poor teacher. Funny how the parent went straight on social media and then to the press before talking to the school to find out the facts.
    No wonder teachers leave the profession they have absolutely no support from professional bodies.

  2. Andy Hall

    “….posted about the incident on social media and reported it to The Sun newspaper before contacting the school……” says it all : Activate the lynch mob before dealing with it properly.

  3. Charles Younger

    This case is completely ludicrous and yet another case which is severely damaging to the reputation of the DfE and its ability to recruit and retain teachers. It highlights the essentially unjust TRA process whereby the TRA is both prosecutor and judge in such hearings. The whole process of regulating teachers is bureaucratic to the point of idiocy and enormously wasteful of taxpayers’ money which would be better spent improving teachers’ pay and conditions rather than lining the pockets of the otherwise-unemployable, low-grade solicitors used such hearings. This case follows the standard knee-jerk response that the teacher is always guilty. There are many important factors that were not considered at all by the kangaroo TRA court in this case. 1. The supposed “injury” was so small, barely a few hundred microns across, that it was de minimis and to any sane person not so significant as to warrant any further action. In a normal day in any school there may be dozens of minor accidents of this kind. 2. There was no enquiry as to how the injury arose, and it was not established that the glue gun had actually caused the “injury”; it could have been caused by mechanical means e.g. collision with furniture. 3. The glue gun presumably was provided by the school, Ms Mead’s employer, and not by Ms Mead herself. If the contents of such guns is caustic, then responsibility lies with the person who ordered the glue gun for the school, not with Ms Mead. She was entitled to reasonably believe it was safe to use any equipment provided by the school. 4. There was no enquiry into the behaviour of the boy’s mother or her motivations. Prior to establishing the facts with the school, she posted on Twitter and contacted The Sun. She did that before emailing her complaint to the school. Was she paid by The Sun? She later started an online petition, contacted the police and contacted the HSA – she was more interested in whipping up a frenzy over this trivial accident than her son’s welfare. The desire to manipulate the situation to obtain monetary compensation, and anti-white racism, should have been considered as motivating factors. The report to the police clearly involved wasting police time.
    The behaviour of the Headteacher was despicable, and lacked any care or regard for Ms Mead whom she supervised and managed. On the Monday after the Friday on which this utterly trivial accident occurred, and before any serious investigation could have been carried out, let alone concluded the headteacher told Ms Mead she should “consider resigning”. This was clearly an attempt to “throw Ms Mead under the bus” to attempt to minimise any problems for the school, and without any regard whatsoever for the potential destruction of Ms Mead’s career. By encouraging Ms Mead to resign, rather than dismissing her, the headteacher clearly sought to cut off any legal action by Ms Mead. However, Ms Mead being pressured to resign in this way, and actually then resigning, amounts to constructive unfair dismissal.

  4. Charles Younger

    Also in the news: “Enfield Grammar School pupil ‘fires BB gun at staff member’ ”
    (The Independent, 12.06.2023). No further action has been taken.

  5. Roy Morgan

    I read of this case in a national newspaper this morning. I was outraged. As a full time teacher for 45 years including 26 years as a headteacher, the injustice served to this teacher is unacceptable. I read that the H.R. department at the school advised her to resign? If true, they should resign themselves. I have been a D and T coordinator and used hot glue guns with Primary aged pupils. Accidents can regretably happen.
    This teacher (DHT) should be reinstated immediately.

  6. I’m utterly appalled by this and the actions of the parents, the school and the DfE. This was a ludicrous witch hunt of an overworked teacher. Schools are grossly underfunded and teachers have to take on a ridiculous amount of responsibilities. With such pressures, and so many plates spinning mistakes will happen. This is a direct result of underfunding and lack of respect for teachers. It seems like this child took it upon themselves to use the glue gun without permission and the actions of the parents are shameful.
    I can only imagine the stress and upset that this poor teacher was subjected to. She should be compensated for this. Shame on all those involved in this witch hunt and shame on the government for stripping schools bare.

  7. John Viner

    This is a disgrace and my heart goes out to the teacher. I inspected Meridian Angel for SIAMS when it first opened and you can’t find a nicer, more caring school.

  8. Who lets primary school kids use a glue gun without supervision? They heat glue to well over 100 degrees, you wouldn’t let kids that age loose with a kettle of boiling water. That teacher deserves to be disciplined. Probably shouldn’t have lost their job but that superficial burn could have been a lot worse if it had gone in the child’s eyes. Teachers have a responsibility to keep the kids safe at school. You don’t get to complain when you fail to keep them safe because you get told off or disciplined.

    • You’re absolutely right that a child wouldn’t be trusted with a kettle of water, but you’re absolutely wrong to assume that a glue gun discharges the same volume as a kettle.

      Please remember to wear eye protection next time you put the kettle on.

  9. Jan Quick

    So many Headteachers now are ‘Gutless Wonders’, so afraid of social media! This was an ACCIDENT, it happens. So many teachers are inundated with so many roles it beggars belief.
    Headteachers, You were once teachers, try and remember that and support your teachers!!!!
    (retired teacher of 42 years!)