Teacher who grabbed and pushed student cleared

A former teacher who grabbed and pushed a student who he feared may stab him with a pencil has been cleared of alleged misconduct.

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

A three-day hearing has concluded the force used by Mr Tattersall was deemed “reasonable” with fears around his personal safety founded.

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 course 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 he had made a “split-second decision” when “everything happened so quickly.”

In summing up, Mr Storey said his client was mindful of the fact there had been two incidents involving students from the school, including an occasion when a boy was stabbed in 2022, and another learner bringing a screwdriver on site. The advocate added how Mr Tattersall told police after the incident how he had a “fear of violence” and referred to how pupil A had behaved toward him in the past.

The behaviour manager was said to be sorry he had not handled the situation differently, which was described as a “deeply unpleasant and stressful incident.” Mr Storey said Mr Tattersall’s response to the pencils being thrown at him was “a use of force reasonable in proportion to the incident he intended to prevent.”

He felt standing by “would breach the duty of care to other students” as pupil A, 14, presented an “aggressive, snarling demeanour.” In conclusion, Mr Storey repeated his client’s assertion he felt threatened, citing a witness statement from pupil C which said the pair had been “a foot apart” at one stage.

The advocate, quoting from his client’s statement, said Mr Tattersall added, “I was in control of my actions and did not lose my temper.”

In finding the allegations against the former teacher unproven, panel chair Terry Hyde said members felt Mr Tattersall had a “legitimate concern” about the threat of violence and lamented the absence of a system to immediately assist staff in such a situation. Mr Hyde added how specialist training may have also been appropriate.

It was found Mr Tattersall “exercised professional judgement” and it was more likely than not the force used in pushing pupil A was reasonable.

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