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Last Updated: Friday, 14 November, 2003, 15:36 GMT
Slap case leads to complaints review
Pamela Mitchelhill
Union leaders say lessons can be learned from Mrs Mitchelhill's case
Education chiefs will review how they handle complaints against teachers after the case of a primary head who was acquitted of slapping a pupil.

Officials from the local education authority who handled the complaint against head teacher Pamela Mitchelhill said they would consult union leaders during the review process to overhaul their complaints procedures.

Sandwell Council's review comes after the acquittal of 50-year-old Mrs Mitchelhill following a two-day trial earlier this week.

The head of Crocketts Lane Primary School in Smethwick walked free from Warley Magistrates' Court after the trial heard allegations that she dragged a disruptive six-year-old pupil across the floor before slapping her twice in the face.

Denied attack

The youngster had denied 11 times during a police video interview that anyone had ever hurt her while at school, and even appeared in court as a witness for the defence rather than the prosecution.

Councillor Ian Jones, the local authority's education spokesman, said the collective review, involving officials from unions including the NUT and the NASUWT, would focus on the procedures currently in place for dealing with allegations against teachers and other school staff.

We need to work hard to allay teachers' fears that they may be falsely accused when dealing with children
Roger Broadbent
NUT local secretary
He said: "I know we have to work within official guidelines and with the other agencies involved in these investigations.

"However, I do believe that we can work together to improve how these matters can be handled."

NASUWT regional negotiator Pete Cole and local NUT secretary Roger Broadbent welcomed the review.

'Frank dialogue'

"There is much to learn from Pam Mitchelhill's experience," Mr Cole said.

"I support Councillor Jones in pushing for frank dialogue with all the agencies involved in child protection procedures."

Mr Broadbent added: "We need to work hard to allay teachers' fears that they may be falsely accused when dealing with children."

Meanwhile, Mrs Mitchelhill, an award-winning teacher, has been told she is free to return to her job.

But so far she has not confirmed whether she will return to the school or the teaching profession.

Mrs Mitchelhill, who has an unblemished 29-year record as a teacher, helped lead Crocketts Lane Primary to the award of beacon status as a model of excellence.

Slap case head free to resume work
12 Nov 03  |  West Midlands
Head cleared of slapping girl
11 Nov 03  |  West Midlands
Head 'slapped' six-year-old girl
10 Nov 03  |  West Midlands
Head charged over 'slap' claim
08 May 03  |  Education

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