The head teacher contacted Pharos on their 24/7 incident support line to advise that they had been contacted by the police to tell them that a teacher in the school had been arrested for suspected sexual communication with a child.
The head teacher contacted Pharos on their 24/7 incident support line to advise that they had been contacted by the police to tell them that a teacher in the school had been arrested for suspected sexual communication with a child. It later transpired that he had been caught as part of a police sting operation involving officers acting as catfish as children on social media sites where the offences had occurred. This later went to the Magistrates Court then the Crown Court where the teacher was given a custodial sentence.
Sadly, the Pharos team have had to deal with a number of these cases in recent years. Our initial response involved to ask the school to collate as much information as they had about the teacher, to double check that all the correct protocols had been followed during his recruitment and employment. This included safer recruitment checks, references, current DBS, safeguarding training attendance, employment record checks. Doing this enables us to be confident in the standard due diligence the school is expected to have in place and helps us to be well prepared for questions from the media. HR needed to be consulted on the process of suspending pending an investigation.
Stakeholders, including HR, who need to know immediately were identified and a communications plan put together by Pharos and agreed with the school to ensure all wider stakeholders (including staff, parents, students) are informed in an appropriately timed manner. A media statement was prepared quickly then kept updated as details unfolded to ensure the school were able to respond in the event of a call from the press and social media monitoring was activated to ensure we were alerted to any discussion on social platforms. An initial social media sweep also alerted us to what any media may find about the teacher in the public domain.
The headteacher was supported and guided through the process of liaising with the Local Authority and the police as the investigations and court cases unfolded and a comprehensive log of all conversations and decisions were recorded on Pharos’ Incident Log System.
When the story became public, Pharos were heavily involved in coaching the headteacher in managing the media and also direct challenges from parents and the public on social media to help ensure the agreed key messages are adhered to, demonstrating care for those affected, that the school is in control of the situation and that they are committed to ensuring something like this cannot happen again.
No one expects a school teacher to be caught up in something like this, so when it happens (and Pharos has supported schools in responding to similar situations every couple of months recently), it strikes right through the core of everything a school stands for. Reputationally it can be hugely damaging but usually the school will have done everything it should and could have done to prevent this from happening. Parents and the public however will still see this as a failing of the school. So careful communications is paramount in order to maintain trust. This can only be achieved by responding swiftly and planning early for what may happen. As always, being as transparent as possible is key. Of course this is tricky in such a sensitive case so it is important to navigate the obvious pitfalls very carefully. This is where Pharos’ extensive experience of dealing with such cases add particular value for its client schools. In this case, as with the others, the head teacher felt well supported and guided by Pharos through what is a very time consuming and treacherous situation that no head teacher ever expects to find themselves in the middle of.