Sheffield headteacher guilty of serious misconduct

Former Norton Free headteacher Helena Button
Former Norton Free headteacher Helena Button
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A former Sheffield primary school headteacher has been found guilty of ‘serious misconduct’ – including failing to take the correct action after an allegation of abuse against a pupil.

A teaching disciplinary panel found Helena Button, who resigned as head, ‘failed to display appropriate professional behaviour’ – but did not ban her from the profession.

Norton Free Church of England Primary School, Sheffield.

Norton Free Church of England Primary School, Sheffield.

The panel also found she:

* said of one colleague she wanted to ‘punch her face in’

* shouted at staff

* grabbed one colleague by the wrist in a rage

Norton Free Church of England Primary School, Sheffield.

Norton Free Church of England Primary School, Sheffield.

* warned staff ‘not to come back from their holidays pregnant’

* used words such as ‘crap, ‘weak’ and ‘rubbish’ about staff

One colleague said all staff felt ‘the wrath of her tongue’ adding: “Her aggression became the norm.”

But the former head of Norton Free C of E Primary School on Matthews Lane, says she is looking forward to getting back into the classroom to ‘continue to do what I love most: teaching’.

The panel found she failed to alert social services quickly enough to an allegation of abuse involving a child, referred to as Pupil A.

Ms Button was also found guilty of threatening staff with disciplinary action after the wrong SATs results where sent out for Year 6 pupils and tried to ‘pin the blame’ on somebody. Pupils were sent predicted grades instead of actual results – causing fury among parents.

The 52-year-old, who resigned on March 20, denied 17 of the 19 allegations during the eight-day National College for Teaching and Leadership inquiry, which heard evidence from 12 witnesses.

The panel found Ms Button’s conduct ‘failed to display appropriate professional behaviour’.

Ms Button said: “The professional conduct panel process has been an extremely stressful times.”

She added: “I fully accept the decisions made by the NCTL.

“I am proud to have been educating young children for over 30 years, 14 years of which in leadership positions where I have delivered substantial improvements in children’s education.

“I look forward to getting back into the classroom to continue to do what I love most: teaching.”

Former school vice-governor Claire McGourlay said she welcomed the findings but added: “I am disappointed that they did not recommend to the Secretary of State a prohibition order.”

But the panel said there were mitigating factors, which included Ms Button’s role in improving the school’s Ofsted rating from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘good’ and the stress and anxiety she suffered. She was ‘passionate’ about teaching but not suited to a leadership role.

Jayne Millions, from the NCTL, said ‘her misconduct did potentially affect the wellbeing of Pupil A’ but added a prohibition order was ‘not proportionate’.

“Any future employer of Ms Button’s will be aware of these findings and will be able to take appropriate measures to ensure she is placed in a role suited to her skill set, which is in the area of teaching rather than leadership and management.”

Current Norton Free headteacher Christopher Holder, said: “I’ve led Norton Free School for the last two years and am pleased to say that it’s a happy place, where children enjoy learning and staff are well-supported.

“The safety and well-being of our children and staff is an absolute priority and our results and recent Ofsted inspection confirm we’re performing well in all areas.

“Our staff are taking a well-deserved break over the summer holidays but we’re looking forward to the start of the new school year and welcoming a new permanent head when we return.”

Key allegations:

* She did not report a disclosure of possible abuse involving Pupil A to social services until the following Monday – NOT PROVEN

* She spoke to Pupil A’s parents about the disclosure without having sought advice or reported the matter to social services – PROVEN

* Failed to take timely action in order to safeguard Pupil A in that despite being alerted to a disclosure of possible abuse at approximately 1pm, she did not alert social services until after 4pm – ADMITTED

* Failed to create and/or maintain separate child protection records for pupils, including Pupil A – ADMITTED

Ms Button admitted her behaviour in relation to the pupil amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

* Shouted at members of staff without good reason – PROVEN

* Was confrontational towards staff – NOT PROVEN

* Made inappropriate and/or hurtful comments to and/or about one or more members of staff, including in relation to their appearance and how they spoke – NOT PROVEN

* Describing staff using words such as ‘crap’ and/or ‘weak’ and/or ‘rubbish’ – PROVEN

* Asking staff whether they were intending to get pregnant, or telling them not to get pregnant – PROVEN

* Saying staff were ‘being a bitch’ or words to that effect – PROVEN

* Saying about one member of staff that you wanted to ‘punch her face in’ – PROVEN

* Shouted and/or screamed at a group of Year 6 boys in the corridor before returning to her office and slamming the door – NOT PROVEN

* One or more aspects of her behaviour constituted bullying of staff – NOT PROVEN