Teacher ‘flew at pupil’ he feared would stab him

A teacher deemed to be “not in control of himself” “flew” across a corridor and pushed a pupil he feared would stab him with a pencil.

In March 2022,  Michael Tattersall, a behaviour support manager at West Derby School, grabbed a boy, known as pupil A, pushed him into an office and restrained him in a chair. The incident was referred to the Teaching Regulation Authority (TRA) who opened misconduct proceedings on Monday.

The former teacher accepts he pushed the year 10 pupil but argued he “felt threatened” and as a result it was not unacceptable professional conduct.

The hearing was told Mr Tattersall joined West Derby in September 2021 with events said to have taken place on March 10, 2022 before he was suspended and left the school in April. The matter was referred to the TRA in July 2022.

Jonathan Storey, on behalf of Mr Tattersall, said his client accepted he had placed his hands on the boy but did not believe it was an inappropriate use of physical force. Mr Storey said in a statement, the former teacher had said he believed he had used the “best cause of action” to protect himself and students.

Mr Tattersall said in his statement, the boy “grabbed sharpened pencils and moved into my personal space.” He said both he and the pupil were the same height and he “felt threatened” as pupil A was just “a few inches away from me.”

The ex-teacher said his concern was to remove pupil A from the corridor and had made a “split-second decision” when “everything happened so quickly.”

The hearing was told Mr Tattersall would supervise the school’s isolation room and was able to connect with children. It was said he was “nervous on that particular day” and the Year 10 pupil was “known for volatile and angry outbursts,” having already thrown a textbook at Mr Tattersall.

Mr Storey told the hearing his client had “no animosity” towards pupil A and he regretted that he felt the need to use restraint. He added how it had been a “fleeting incident” which was “over really in seconds” and Mr Tattersall was previously of good character and had never been referred to the TRA before.

The session heard from West Derby headteacher Sian Graham, who has led the school since 2015. Asked by presenting officer Mark Millin, she said she hadn’t seen anything like the alleged incident either before or since in her career.

The headteacher said Mr Tattersall was given no specific training for the role, arguing it was a “moot point” to provide training for a situation for something that had never happened before, but all staff received safeguarding training. Describing pupil A, Mrs Graham said he appeared “wide eyed and clearly distressed.”

It was said the boy’s attendance was not very good and when in school he could be “petulant, surly, like a usual teenager.” Mrs Graham said she had encountered pupils “worse behaved than him” in the school.

Asked about the incident, Mrs Graham said she was in her office along from the isolation room when she heard a commotion and saw Mr Tattersall had “flew across the corridor, pushing and manhandling pupil A.” The hearing was told the boy shouted back, “Get off me you fat paedo.”

She described this as seeing “an adult, not in control of himself.” Regarding the threat of pupil A carrying something, the headteacher said, “At no point did he alert us to that.”

Upon arriving at the scene, Mrs Graham said she shouted “We’ve got this” to Mr Tattersall and suggested he initially would not let go of the boy. She said the behaviour manager replied, “I’m restraining him.”

Mr Storey said his client “didn’t think it was safe to let go of him at first.”

Asked if she felt in any danger, Mrs Graham said, “Absolutely not.” The headteacher said Mr Tattersall had “not mentioned fear of a weapon” in the aftermath, and when asked if he needed anything afterward, replied he’d like a coffee.

Mrs Graham told the hearing the former teacher “seemed very nonchalant, he wasn’t upset or angry, it was as if nothing happened.” It was said Mr Tattersall later told police he feared he would be stabbed with a pencil.

She added how given Mr Tattersall was himself formerly a teacher, it was expected he would know how to de-escalate a situation.

Joanne Stephens, senior assistant headteacher, said staff are advised not to use their hands in situations with learners. She said pupil A’s trust had been shaken by the incident on his return to school.

Regarding handling of pencils, Mrs Stephens said she did not recall pupil A moving towards Mr Tattersall and when they were thrown, it was said to resemble an underarm motion.

The hearing continues.

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