Sacked teacher called pupils ‘little s***’ and ‘idiot’ then vented about student on Facebook

A teacher who was sacked from a school in Warrington called pupils ‘idiot’ and ‘little s***’ then vented about a student on Facebook, a report has revealed.

Barbara Phillips was dismissed from her position at Chaigeley School, a school for children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, in October 2019 after an investigation, Cheshire Live reports. A hearing was recently carried out into allegations surrounding her conduct and a report released this month said she had ‘engaged in inappropriate and/or unprofessional behaviour’.

It found that she had called pupils ‘idiot’ and ‘little s***’ more than once. She had also posted on Facebook ‘if [name of pupil] isn’t excluded for at least three days, I will f*** off home’.

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But the professional conduct panel hearing carried out by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) found that no prohibition order would be made against her as she had reflected and changed.

The panel found that in March 2019, Mrs Phillips said ‘I’m not staying in with him here’ in what was described as a ‘loud and dramatic fashion’ while she was in the dining room in reference to a pupil who had an ‘ episode of violence’ earlier that day that led to them damaging school property. It was reported that the pupil overheard the comment and was ‘visibly upset’.

One witness said a pupil had told them Mrs Phillips had used the word ‘idiot’, while the phrase ‘little s***’ was reported to have been said in the dining room, while staff were ‘chatting amongst themselves’. Mrs Phillips admitted to using those words and claimed it to be a method to ‘let off steam’.

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She was adamant she said them away from pupils, although the panel found that she had ‘used the term idiot to a pupil’. She was also found to have sent a text message to one pupil’s guardian saying ‘sacked, thanks’. She posted about a student on Facebook then mentioned ‘six smashed windows and assaulting staff’, referring to the incident in March 2019.

The report stated that pupils who attended the school had social, emotional and mental health difficulties, which ‘often led to episodes of violence on staff’. One witness told the panel the school was a ‘difficult place to work’ and that some of the pupils ‘could act in an unexplained and unpredictable manner’.

The panel found Mrs Phillips’ conduct ‘fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession’. The report said: “The findings of misconduct are serious, and the conduct displayed would be likely to have a negative impact on the individual’s status as a teacher, potentially damaging the public perception.

“This was indicated by the fact that Individual C was so affected by the text, and that the Facebook comment was screenshotted by another member of the group.”

But it went on to say: “It appeared common ground between the parties that the environment at the school was highly charged, and there were regular episodes of violence by pupils on teachers. Despite these issues, the panel also received a number of positive testimonials , both in live evidence and in writing, in respect of Mrs Phillips and her teaching qualities.

“It was clear from the live evidence given by the TRA’s witnesses that Mrs Phillips was able to build strong, positive relationships with pupils, in particular vulnerable ones, and their parents/carers. Various professionals cited that this was to the significant benefit of the pupils, both in the short and long term.”

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The panel found Mrs Phillips had also proved she had ‘reflected on her past conduct’ and assured them that ‘similar incidents would not happen in the future’. She also said she now understood the boundaries she should abide by when communicating on social media.

It was decided that no prohibition order would be made against Mrs Phillips. The panel advised the Secretary of State that there was a ‘strong public interest in retaining Mrs Philips in the profession’.

The decision maker Sarah Buxcey, writing on behalf of the Secretary of State, said: “Although the incidents found came from this case were serious, the panel noted that neither were repeated and that Mrs Phillips made attempts to rectify matters. The panel commented that there was a strong public interest in retaining Mrs Phillips in the profession.

“For these reasons, I have concluded that a prohibited order is not proportionate or in the public interest. I consider that the publication of the findings made would be sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher as to the standards of behavior that were not acceptable and that the publication would meet the public interest requirement of declaring proper standards of the profession.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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