Teacher allowed to continue working after 'out of character' incident results in assault conviction

A teacher who was convicted of common assault after a confrontation with a pupil at a Scunthorpe school can continue teaching after a professional conduct panel found it was a “one-off error of judgement and out of character”.

St Lawrence Academy

Darren Burt shouted at an abusive pupil at St Lawrence Academy in January 2019, threw a bottle of water across the room and told the child he would be “picking his teeth up off the ground” if he had spoken to someone in the same way outside school.

The incident, which unfolded in the secondary school’s isolation room, was filmed on CCTV and the boy’s mother contacted police after she reviewed the footage.

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He was convicted of common assault at Humberside Magistrates Court in February 2020 and received a conditional discharge, after the judge concluded that the pupil was in fear of unlawful force even though none was inflicted.

The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) reviewed the case and a misconduct panel found he had “acted in an aggressive manner”, the pupil was “visibly upset after the incident” and his actions “may bring the profession into disrepute”.

But a report published by the TRA also states Mr Burt was “acting under duress, given the pressures in his personal life” and he “did not consider that he was well enough to attend work that day but did so as a result of his dedication to the profession”.

The panel also heard from a witness who said he did not think Mr Burt had made any kind of threat towards the pupil and the pupil was never in any danger.

“The panel also decided that there was a strong public interest consideration in retaining the teacher in the profession, since no doubt had been cast upon his abilities as an educator and he is able to make a valuable contribution to the profession,” it states.

“Mr Burt had taught at the same school for approximately 13 years, being promoted to a head of year and subsequently head of mathematics.

“Mr Burt did have a previously good history and the panel accepted that the incident was a one-off error of judgement and out of character.

“The panel had sight of a number of good character references, in support of Mr Burt being able to continue to teach in the profession.”

It adds: “Given that the nature and severity of the behaviour was limited in scope and duration, being considered at the less serious end of the possible spectrum and, having considered the mitigating factors that were present, the panel determined that a recommendation for a prohibition order would not be appropriate in this case.”