Teacher left brain damaged after ‘furious’ student attacks her with mobile phone
A teacher was left brain damaged and permanently disabled after a "furious" attack by a pupil who battered her around the head with a mobile phone, a court has heard.
Gillian Stephens was working as a safeguarding lead at Putteridge High School in Luton, Beds., when the violent assault happened.
A female GCSE student who suffered from behavioural problems launched the beating on Mrs Stephens, using her mobile phone as a weapon to rain blows upon the teacher's head.
Mrs Stephens has been left severely disabled since the attack on June 16, 2016, and has been unable to work since.
Luton Crown Court heard on Thursday that at the time of the attack, Putteridge High School had no risk assessments to protect staff from violent pupils.
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The court heard that the school's board of governors had opted against a violence and aggression safety policy, despite workplace guidance from the Department for Education in 2014.
As the local authority running the school in 2016, Luton Borough Council pleaded guilty to one count in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The council had initially pleaded "not guilty" on the basis of having few powers of intervention over the school – as central government dictates local authority schools should be run by headteachers and governors.
However, it changed its plea on the second day of trial.
As a jury had already been sworn in, the "guilty" verdict was pronounced by the jury foreman.
The case was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.
The court heard that the student – who was later prosecuted for the assault at Luton Magistrates' Court – had developed behavioural problems in 2015.
This had led to her being "violent at home and disruptive at school".
On the day of the attack, the girl had disrupted her art class and was sent for a day of isolation – but ignored this and went into her ordinary class.
Mrs Stephens was called upon as safeguarding lead to clear the other pupils out of the classroom, leaving her alone with the student – who then unleashed a "furious" assault upon the teacher.
The court was told Mrs Stephens has been left seriously disabled, with permanent brain injury and "significantly traumatised".
The court also heard that, by 2016, none of Putteridge High School's staff had received recent health and safety training – with some as far back as 2009.
None of the training they had previously received addressed the potential risk from aggressive pupils. Mrs Stephens had allegedly asked the school for further training, but none was given.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation in September 2016 after learning about the attack on Mrs Stephens and visited the school the following month.
The HSE found "a great deal of paperwork" in relation to safeguarding, but none which addressed the risk to staff from violent or aggressive pupils.
Putteridge High School has since joined the Chiltern Learning Trust in March 2017 and converted to an academy.
Luton Borough Council is due to be sentenced on Wednesday, October 15, at Luton Crown Court.
Civil proceedings have been stayed until the outcome of the case.
Luton Borough Council, the Health and Safety Executive, and the National Education Union representative for Luton have all been contacted for comment.
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