An “outstanding” and “adored” teacher was told to resign after a 10-year-old pupil suffered a “small” glue gun burn on his hand.
Sarah Mead had an “unblemished” teaching career and became deputy headteacher at Meridian Angel Primary School in Enfield, north London.
But in May 2022, a schoolboy, named only as “Pupil A”, suffered a small burn to his hand, prompting the mother to go to a tabloid newspaper claiming he was left in “serious pain” and she was “livid”.
Now the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) has found Ms Mead failed to provide the child with adequate supervision, did not conduct a risk assessment, take the boy for medical treatment or inform his parents about the injury.
However, the TRA panel refused to strip Ms Mead of her right to teach because it would “deprive” children of a teacher who had a “long and otherwise unblemished record”.
The ruling, published in July, explained how Ms Mead told pupils in an arts and design class not to use the device but later found they had turned the gun on and had been successfully using it to make the art project.
She showed them how to use it safely, before tending to other children.
The report says: “As the children were packing up for the end of the day, one of the pupils told Ms Mead that Pupil A had “hurt” himself.”
She found he was “reluctant” to show her his hand but she did see a “small single blister”. She told him to run his hand under cold water, go to the medical room and tell his mother about the injury when he got home.
When the child got home his mother took him to hospital where medics discovered a “superficial burn” on his right hand where two burn blisters were visible, one of which was “oozing”.
He was advised to use over-the-counter pain relief and apply Vaseline to the injured area.
The mother tweeted about the burn, tagging the school in her comments. She then contacted The Sun newspaper, handing over pictures of the boy, which were featured in an article describing the mum as “furious”.
The mother, who reported the incident to the police, received an apology from the school trust.
The report adds: “There was a conversation regarding the HR advice that was given regarding her role which included that she consider resigning her position.
“Although Ms Mead was unsure of the situation and ramifications, she agreed to resign immediately.”
The mother, unaware Ms Mead had resigned, started a petition to try to get the teacher sacked. She even collected school signatures from other parents at the school gates and began a civil claim about the injury.
The panel, which found Ms Mead “guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct”, noted that Ms Mead “demonstrated genuine remorse” and recognised the impact her actions had had on Pupil A.
‘Dedication to the profession’
They wrote: “The evidence before the panel showed that Pupil A’s and the two other pupils’ safety was not suitably safeguarded by Ms Mead, in that she allowed them the use of the glue gun in the fashion that she did.
“The panel considered it an important right that parents be informed in a timely manner when a child in their care had injured themselves with a burn at school. As previously set out, Ms Mead did not on this occasion follow the relevant procedures in this area.”
They added: “The panel considered that Ms Mead’s failures risked undermining the trust the public and parents placed in the profession to safeguard pupils, particularly so when teachers are acting in loco parentis.
“The panel paid no regard to any media publicity in the evidence before it, but considered that a well-informed member of the public would consider these allegations to be serious and the conduct displayed would likely have a negative impact on Ms Mead’s status as a teacher, potentially damaging the public perception of the profession.”
They noted her “resolute dedication to the teaching profession and to pupils” and how she “constantly gave all” to her role as a teacher.
Micon Metcalfe, who has worked in numerous academy trusts and was a member of the Department for Education’s “Expert Group”, said she felt “very sorry” for Ms Mead, adding that the ruling illustrated why there was a retention crisis in British schools.
“No more glue guns in primary, that’s for sure,” she said. “Notwithstanding the fact that children do need to learn to use tools and be exposed to propitiate risk.”