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Former Swaffham school principal banned from the country’s classrooms

Cheryl Hill
Cheryl Hill

The former head of a leading Swaffham school has been banned from the country’s classrooms indefinitely for at least five years.

The ban follows a teachers disciplinary finding that Cheryl Hill, 58, who was principal of the Nicholas Hamond Academy from November 2012 to August 2016 was guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct which could bring the teaching profession into disrepute”.

Ms Hill admitted a string of allegations made to the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) panel when the case was heard in Coventry last month.

These included that she allowed a man, identified only as “Mr X”, to work at and attend as a student at the academy, even though he had been reprimanded in January 2013 following an allegation he had incited a child under 16 to engage in a sex act and that she had failed to report a serious safeguarding incident involving the man and a pupil.

She also admitted not carrying out adequate recruitment and vetting checks on the man, failing to ensure he was adequately supervised and monitored when at the Academy, failing to provide full information in respect of him to a designated safeguarding officer or his line manager, and failing to comply with Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education requirements.

She accepted that the allegations she had admitted amounted to unacceptable conduct that could bring the profession into disrepute but had denied she had acted dishonestly.

However, the panel found that she had been dishonest in respect of some allegations.

The panel’s findings say they had been told that Ms Hill’s relationship with the man concerned had been “a critical factor running through the proceedings”.

They say: “Whilst he was not a blood relation to Ms Hill, they were incredibly close and had been for nearly all Mr X’s life with Ms Hill providing care similar to that of a parent.”

In recommending that Ms Hill should be banned from teaching for at least five years the panel said in its findings that she had a previously good record for her entire and lengthy career.

“There was no suggestion of any previous concerns in any way regarding her conduct and, to the contrary, there was clear evidence from the College’s witnesses that Ms Hill was an outstanding teacher and school leader,” they said.

But they added: “There was no evidence that Ms Hill was acting under duress and, in light of the finding of dishonesty, the panel could only conclude Ms Hill’s actions were deliberate.”

Imposing the ban on behalf of Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, NCTL decision maker, Dawn Dandy said it had been accepted that Ms Hill showed “some appreciation of the possible risk in which she had placed pupils”.

But she continued: “In my judgment the lack of full insight means that there is some risk of the repetition of this behaviour and this risks pupils safety in the future. I have therefore given this element considerable weight in reaching my decision.”

“In my view it is necessary to impose a prohibition order in order to maintain public confidence in the profession. A published decision that is not backed up by full remorse or insight does not in my view satisfy the public interest requirement concerning public confidence in the profession,” she said.

She added: “I consider therefore that a five-year review period is required to satisfy the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.”

She also made it clear that the ban will not automatically be lifted after five years and that if Ms Hill wants to have it lifted she will have to go before another panel to prove that she is fit to return to teaching.

Ms Hill has the right to challenge the ban and findings in the High Court.

The sponsor of the Nicholas Hamond Academy says it has addressed safeguarding issues at the Swaffham school since the issues that led to the sacking of Ms Hill came to light.

The Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), issued a statement following the publication of the National College of Teaching and Leadership panel judgment on the school’s former principal on Wednesday.

The trust said Ms Hill was dismissed from her post as the academy’s principal in October 2016 when the issues first emerged.

At the time of her dismissal, the trust said the issues identified did not relate to any current students, while police indicated they were also satisfied it had been handled properly.

The trust said: “Ms Hill confirmed her understanding of the legal requirements in her witness statement which the panel took into consideration when reaching their decision.

“ATT have been working closely with the academy since this incident including a full safeguarding review in the academy in October 2016 and regular monitoring and training with staff to ensure effective safeguarding practices and a positive culture and ethos towards safeguarding.

“Ofsted and the local authority have also agreed in their recent visits that the safeguarding policy and procedures are effective.

“The safety, happiness and achievement of pupils remains our highest priority and we will continue to provide excellent opportunities for pupils.”

They said they were looking forward to welcoming Mark Woodhouse as the new principal of the school later this month. His appointment was announced in February.

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