Loughton teacher who locked child with special needs in room unattended spared ban

A teacher who locked a child with special educational needs in a sensory break room after he became “violent” towards her has been spared a permanent ban from the profession.

The Teaching Regulation Agency said Elisha Emirali placed a child at SEND specialist school Oak View School in Loughton, in a sensory room, locked the door and left him unattended in 2020.

According to a misconduct report, the TRA said a prohibition order, which would have banned her from teaching, would not be proportionate or in the public interest.

It said the publication of the findings would “send an appropriate message” to the teacher, noting she had been open and honest about her conduct.

The school said the incident was “unacceptable” and that Ms Emirali stopped working there as soon as it learned about the incident.

The TRA misconduct panel found two allegations proven, according to the report. 

These are that on or around September 30 2020, Ms Emirali removed all toys and equipment from the sensory room, placed “Pupil A” in there and left him unattended and unsupervised, and locked the door with him inside.

The second allegation was that she did not adequately record behaviour incidents for Pupil A and other pupils in the class in the weeks leading up to September 30.

Ms Emirali admitted both allegations, according to the report.

Three further allegations were found to be unproven, including that she used plastic drawers to block Pupil A from leaving the sensory break out room.

While she admitted to using the drawers to stop Pupil A from pinching and scratching her legs, the panel found no evidence which suggested she did this block Pupil A from leaving the room.

On the allegation she used a room divider and plastic tables to inappropriately separate pupils, Ms Emirali admitted to blocking the walkway of the sensory calm zone on one occasion, using a small lightweight plastic table next to the divider.

But the panel received no evidence the use of dividers caused distress to the pupils, or was inappropriate.

In a mitigation statement included in the report, Ms Emirali said she “deeply regretted” her decision.

She said: “Pupil A kept leaving the space and continued to pinch, bite and attack me whilst I was teaching.

“This was extremely painful and made it extremely difficult to teach the class. I placed a small lightweight table in front of the walkway, next to the divider, which outlines the calm zone, to deter Pupil A away from coming back out to come and hurt me and to allow me to continue to teach the class without being pinched, bitten or kicked.”

The final allegation in the report is that between September-October 2020, she used inappropriate behaviour management strategies, including making pupils sit facing the wall.

However, Ms Emirali denies having asked pupils to face the wall as a punishment or behaviour strategy and that some desks incidentally faced the wall.

This allegation was also found unproven by the panel.

The panel considered a number of mitigations, including the challenging behaviour exhibited by Pupil A, difficult teaching conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic, stress caused by possibility of redundancy, short staffing at the school which exacerbated the situation and that Ms Emirali had some personal issues in her life which may have impacted her judgement.

Ms Emirali had no previous findings before the regulator and her misconduct took place over a short period of time and the panel described her misconduct as out of character.

Tina Kearney, headteacher of Oak View School, said in a statement: “The incident which took place 17 months ago at our school was totally unacceptable and went against all the values and practices that underpin everything we do at Oak View School. 

“As soon as the incident came to light, our thorough and robust safeguarding policies and procedures were followed. The teacher concerned ceased to be employed by the school with immediate effect.

“Following our own internal, rigorous investigations, we duly forwarded the case to the Teaching Regulation Agency.

“We strictly follow all safeguarding policies and procedures as laid out statutorily and by the local authority. We take the safeguarding of our pupils very seriously and nothing is more important to us at Oak View School than the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

Oak View School is a specialist SEND school for children between three and 19 years old, according to its website.

Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter