Primary teacher put hands around pupils' throats and called one 'scumbag' at Norfolk school

St William's Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew.
Credit: Google Maps

A primary school teacher who put his hands around the throats of two children and called one a "scumbag" has been banned from the classroom.

Stephen McCulley, 58, worked as a supply teacher at St William's Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew near Norwich when the incidents took place in March 2019.

A disciplinary panel heard how Mr McCulley put his hands around the throats of two different pupils in two separate incidents on the same day.

He also called one a "scumbag" and made comments to the other about "sticking him to the wall".

He accepted a police caution for his conduct in September 2019, according to a report from the Teaching Regulation Agency.The teacher had worked in the classroom for 34 years, mainly as a support worker and was also registered with supply teaching agency Step Teachers when he began working at St William's Primary School.

He admitted that his "conduct amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute".

But he was unable to provide an explanation for his behaviour other than to say he was "joking".

The panel concluded: “The panel considered Mr McCulley was an experienced teacher and it was concerned that he had not provided an explanation as to why he behaved as he did, other than to say he was joking. The panel did not feel Mr McCulley's behaviour was consistent with a joke given the context in which it occurred.”

The panel also said that although there were no marks on either of the children's throats the following day, the incident was likely to have a negative impact on the eight and nine-year-olds.One of the pupils described in a police interview how he thought that another pupil who witnessed the incident had "saved his life" when they told Mr McCulley to stop.

The second pupil said that they were keen to get to class but "did not want to be left alone with Mr McCulley".In his submission, the teacher he was "deeply sorry and remorseful for my behaviour", but the panel did not consider this an apology to the school or the profession, and recommended that he be banned.

The panel acknowledged that the incident "occurred on one day over a long career" but had concerns that his behaviour may be repeated due to his lack of explanation for it.

Panel member Sarah Buxcey, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, said: “The panel also felt that Mr McCulley's insight was limited as he maintained that his actions were a joke. In my judgement, the lack of full remorse or insight means that there is some risk of the repetition of this behaviour and this puts at risk the future wellbeing of pupils.”

The case was heard by the panel on 9 December 2022 from which point Mr McCulley had 28 days to appeal. He can apply for a review to become a teacher again in three years.

Sarah Shirras, executive headteacher of The Hive Federation which includes St William’s Primary School, said: "Throughout this long investigation, we have worked closely with the authorities and the families affected, with the wellbeing of their children as our top priority.

"This case has proven how vital it is that children’s voices are at the core of safeguarding in all schools, empowering them to speak up to ensure we keep them safe. Having supported all aspects of this investigation, we are pleased with this final outcome."

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