Ban for Launceston teacher who hit and force-fed pupils
A PRIMARY school teacher from North Cornwall has been banned from the classroom after forcing one child to eat custard, slapping another across the face and using a belt to restrain another child in a chair.
The ban, imposed by Education Secretary Michael Gove on Amanda Whitfield, 60, follows a disciplinary panel finding that she was guilty of "unacceptable professional conduct".
The incidents happened while she was employed at St Stephen's Primary School in Launceston as a teacher in the school's access resource base between 2006 and 2008.
The Teaching Agency panel found Whitfield made a seven-year-old pupil (identified as Pupil A), eat custard while he was crying and gagging during the summer term of 2006.
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The panel's findings say this was "plainly inappropriate". She also slapped another child, (identified as Pupil E) and also aged 7, across the face during the autumn term of 2006.
On another occasion the panel found she had pinched the nose of a child (identified as Pupil G) to force her to open her mouth on or about March 14, 2007.
And she had restrained a child (identified as Pupil J) in an inappropriate manner using a chair and a belt on or about November 24, 2008, and then failed to report the incident to a senior member of staff.
Recommending that Whitfield should be banned from teaching, the panel's findings say: "The proved facts, in our view, indicate misconduct of a serious nature and conduct that falls significantly short of the standard of behaviour expected of a teacher.
"We recognise the challenging circumstances in which Mrs Whitfield was working and the complex needs of the children.
"However, the proved behaviour demonstrates various breaches of the General Teaching Council's Code of Conduct and the department's Teaching Standards."
The findings say that Whitfield's conduct did not demonstrate any element of malice, that there was no intent to punish the children by her actions, and that Whitfield had enjoyed a "long and excellent career" until the events in question.
But they add that her actions jeopardised the wellbeing of young, and particularly vulnerable, pupils and that she had failed to take advantage of opportunities to reflect on her behaviour and display insight.
In backing the panel in its call for Whitfield to be banned, the Education Secretary says in the findings: "The facts found proved have put the wellbeing of young and vulnerable pupils in jeopardy.
"Furthermore, Mrs Whitfield has shown no real insight into her behaviour or the effects of that behaviour.
"The panel has judged that there is a real risk that her behaviour will be repeated."
"In all the circumstances, I support the panel's recommendation that prohibition is the appropriate sanction."
The decision means Whitfield is prohibited from teaching in any school, sixth-form college, relevant youth accommodation or children's home in England.
She may not apply for the Prohibition Order to be set aside until April 2015, and, if she does so, will have to persuade a panel that she is fit to return to the classroom.
Whitfield has a right of appeal to the High Court.