A TEACHER has been banned for life after kicking and pulling the hair of a pupil at a special school.

Harriet Coleman, 30, was working at Wood Bank School, in Calderdale, when she attacked a “vulnerable” student and then provided a false narrative to protect herself, a misconduct panel heard.

The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) conducted a private hearing on February 27 this year, with the outcome and report published on Monday.

Coleman was convicted of assault by beating at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court in the summer of 2022 after pleading guilty to the offence.

She was handed a community order, which included 150 hours of unpaid work, up to 20 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR) days, and was ordered to pay £680, according to court records.

This included £500 compensation to the victim.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Wood Bank School, in HalifaxWood Bank School, in Halifax (Image: Google Street View)

The assault happened just months after Coleman started working at the school.

Wood Bank says on its website it is a “generic special school” for those aged four to 11.

It adds: “Our children have an extensive range of special educational needs including severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning difficulties, complex needs, and autism.”

Coleman directed violence towards a child that was in her care and the report said her response was “disproportionate” to the student’s behaviour.

It added: “The child’s behaviour did not appear exceptional and there was no evidence of appropriate strategies being used to de-escalate the situation.”

The school held a meeting that same day with Coleman and a statement was taken.

The LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) and MAST (Multi-Agency Support Team) were informed and an investigation began.

The panel found Coleman was “dishonest” and “displayed a lack of integrity” in the aftermath of the attack.

She tried to cover up the assault initially but then gave more details after she was made aware there was CCTV evidence, according to the report.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The entrance to Wood Bank School, in HalifaxThe entrance to Wood Bank School, in Halifax (Image: Google Street View)

The former teacher denied kicking and pulling the child’s hair in her first statement and then made no admission of what she had done in a handwritten statement the day after.

Her description of the specific event in that was “very brief” but “unnecessarily specific about irrelevant factors”, according to the report.

Coleman said at the beginning of a meeting with the school that same day, on January 27, 2022, “I promise I didn’t kick [them]”, and she denied pulling the child's hair.

Once the existence of CCTV evidence was revealed, Coleman said, “I may have kicked [them]…I remember kicking [them]”.

Coleman was suspended following that meeting and the outcome of a disciplinary meeting on July 14, 2022 was sent in a letter to the former teacher on July 22, 2022.

The case was referred to the TRA on July 28 that year.

The panel recommended a prohibition order should be imposed with immediate effect.

This took into consideration that two people, including Coleman’s friend, spoke of her “good character”.

But there were no references from colleagues that attested to her abilities as a teacher.

The report said: “There was some evidence within the bundle that suggested Ms Coleman was acting under difficult (REDACTED), however this did not excuse her violent actions towards a child.

“Whilst the panel acknowledged her (REDACTED) may have affected her reactions, the panel did not consider that Ms Coleman was acting under extreme duress.”

Coleman accepted her wrongdoing but the panel found she “demonstrated little insight into her actions, particularly in respect of the ongoing impact on the pupil involved, and little genuine remorse.”

The report said: “The panel decided that the public interest considerations outweighed the interests of Ms Coleman.

“The violent nature of the incident against a vulnerable pupil, and Ms Coleman’s attempts to provide a false narrative that protected her, were significant factors in forming that opinion.”

The Secretary of State agreed with the TRA’s recommendation and issued a prohibition order in relation to Coleman, without a review period.

This means Coleman is banned from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England, and will not be able to apply for restoration of her eligibility to teach.

"Appalling case"

Julie Jenkins, Calderdale Council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Services, said: “This was an appalling case in which a teacher with responsibility for the care and education of vulnerable children abused the trust that was placed in her.

“Safeguarding children and young people in Calderdale is of paramount importance, and we thoroughly investigate all allegations of inappropriate behaviour using a multi-agency approach.

“When we were made aware of the allegations, we immediately referred them to our officer who oversees people who may pose a risk to a child, and they were investigated by the police. This resulted in the prosecution.

"The verdict makes it loud and clear that violence will not be tolerated in Calderdale, which is known for its kind and caring nature.”