Alison Earl, former headteacher of Tollgate Primary School in Bury St Edmunds, faces no disciplinary action

Alison Earl, when she was headteacher of Barrow Primary, with a Families First Award. Picture: CONTR

Alison Earl, when she was headteacher of Barrow Primary, with a Families First Award. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

A former headteacher of a Bury St Edmunds primary school has not been banned from teaching for allowing children to be locked in rooms for bad behaviour.

A professional conduct panel found Alison Earl, who began working at Tollgate Primary School in July 2014, was “misguided” in her actions rather than showing any “malicious intent”.

Mrs Earl, who resigned from the school in December 2015, was accused of allowing children to be put into solitary confinement in an empty room for misbehaviour, as well as a smaller room of 2m by 1.5m, from which they could not leave. Witnesses said children could be heard “shouting or crying from the room”.

The panel for the National College for Teaching and Leadership concluded Mrs Earl was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and found her actions constituted “conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute”. But they did not feel that a prohibition order was appropriate.

The report said: “The evidence presented by both parties shows that Mrs Earl was working under a considerable pressure at the time, to rapidly improve standards in a school that was previously judged by Ofsted to be ‘failing’ and was in a very challenging environment. Witnesses spoke of her being hardworking and dedicated to improving standards at the school, and stated that she took a holistic approach to the education of children.”

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It said the use of the ‘empty’ and smaller ‘blue room’ - partitioned off from the first room - was as a result of trying to avoid excluding children.

“This was because often their home environment was not the best place for them to be and some parents stated that they were unable to look after their children at home during the school day.

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“The panel notes Mrs Earl’s commitment to inclusion and desire to keep children in school where possible, but it appears that the school was not adequately resourced to achieve this in a safe and secure way.”

The hearing was told the door handles on the empty and blue rooms were raised so they were out of the reach of children, and later the inner handle on the blue room door was removed altogether.

The recommendations were accepted by official Alan Meyrick, who made the decision on behalf of the Secretary of State.

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