Falsification of School attendance record results in a prohibition order for School Mistress
Professional conduct panel decision and recommendations, and decision on behalf of the Secretary of State
Teacher: Ms Karen Venita Castrey
Teacher ref number: 8776987
Teacher date of birth: 17 September 1964
NCTL case reference: 15169
Date of determination: 6 April 2017
Former employer: Sandon Business, Arts & Enterprise College
A professional conduct panel (“the panel”) of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (“the National College”) convened on 3 - 6 April 2017 at The Ramada Hotel, The Butts, Coventry CV1 3GG to consider the case of Ms Karen Venita Castrey and Mrs Diane Drew.
The panel members were Mr Martin Greenslade (lay panellist – in the chair), Mr Peter Cooper (teacher panellist) and Mr Maurice McBride (lay panellist).
The legal adviser to the panel was Mr Robin Havard of Blake Morgan LLP solicitors.
The presenting officer for the National College was Mr Ben Bentley of Browne Jacobson LLP.
Ms Castrey attended the hearing and was represented by Mr Andrew Faux.
Mrs Drew attended the hearing on 4 and 5 April 2017 and was represented by Mr Tim Glover.
The hearing took place in public and was recorded. The panel's decision was announced in public.
The panel considered the allegations set out in the Notice of Proceedings dated 2 February 2017. It was alleged that Ms Karen Venita Castrey was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute, in that:
Whilst working as a teacher at Sandon Business, Arts & Enterprise College in the period 2009/10 to 2015 she:
- Falsified the School's attendance records and/or requested and/or instructed staff members to make false representations on the school's attendance register;
- Failed to effectively manage the administration of the school attendance register by failing to ensure its accuracy;
- Knowingly caused, permitted or allowed inaccurate information relating to school attendance to be submitted to the Governing Body of the School and/or the Local Authority;
- Her conduct as may be found to be proven at allegations 1 and/or 3 was dishonest and/or lacked integrity in that she caused a statutory document to be completed in a way in which she knew or ought to have known was false and/or misleading.
Ms Castrey denied the facts of the allegations.
Consequently, Ms Castrey did not admit that she was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.
Decision and reasons on behalf of the Secretary of State
I have given very careful consideration to this case and to the recommendation of the panel in respect of sanction and review period.
In considering this case I have given very careful attention to the advice that is published by the Secretary of State concerning the prohibition of teachers.
In this case the panel has found the allegations proven and found that those proven facts amount to unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute. The panel has made a recommendation to the Secretary of State that Ms Castrey should be the subject of a prohibition order, with a review period of three years.
In particular the panel has found that Ms Castrey is in breach of the following standards:
Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions;
Teachers must have an understanding of, and always act within, the statutory frameworks which set out their professional duties and responsibilities. The panel finds that the conduct of Ms Castrey fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.
The findings of misconduct are particularly serious as they include a finding of dishonesty on the part of a headteacher and also involves a course of conduct designed to mislead the statutory authorities and the governing body with regard to an important element of the school's performance. It also involves the provision of instructions to her deputy head and other, more junior, members of staff to conduct themselves in a way which Ms Castrey and they knew to be wrong.
I have to determine whether the impostion of a prohibition order is proportionate and in the public interest. In considering that for this case I have considered the overall aim of a prohibition order which is to protect pupils and to maintain public confidence in the profession. I have considered the extent to which a prohibition order in this case would achieve that aim taking into account the impact that it will have on the individual teacher. I have also asked myself whether or not a less intrusive measure, such as the published finding of unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute, would itself be sufficient to achieve the overall aim. I have to consider whether the consequences of such a publication are themselves sufficient. I have considered therefore whether or not prohibiting Ms Castrey, and the impact that will have on her, is proportionate.
In this case I have considered the extent to which a prohibition order would protect children. The panel has observed “An accurate attendance register is necessary to ensure that pupils' whereabouts are known or, if they are not, appropriate child protection measures can then be taken”. A prohibition order would therefore prevent such a risk from being present. I have also taken into account the panel’s comments on insight and remorse which the panel sets out as follows, “The panel had found that Ms Castrey had directed members of her staff to act dishonestly, putting them in a totally unacceptable, and highly distressing, predicament. She had then denied any involvement.”The panel has also commented that Ms Castrey showed “a lack of insight”. In my judgement the lack of insight means that there is some risk of the repetition of this behaviour and this risks future pupils’ whereabouts not being properly recorded. I have therefore given this element considerable weight in reaching my decision.
I have gone on to consider the extent to which a prohibition order would maintain public confidence in the profession. The panel observe, “Conduct of this sort has the potential to damage the public's perception of, and trust in, the profession”. I am particularly mindful of the finding of dishonesty in this case and the impact that such a finding has on the reputation of the profession.
I have had to consider that the public has a high expectation of professional standards of all teachers and that failure to impose a prohibition order might be regarded by the public as a failure to uphold those high standards. In weighing these considerations I have had to consider the matter from the point of view of an “ordinary intelligent and well-informed citizen.”
I have considered whether the publication of a finding of unacceptable professional conduct, in the absence of a prohibition order, can itself be regarded by such a person as being a proportionate response to the misconduct that has been found proven in this case.
I have also considered the impact of a prohibition order on Ms Castrey herself. She has subsequently secured work teaching and the panel comment “she is a capable class room teacher and she is thoroughly enjoying her new role in teaching a class where a number of the pupils are challenging. The reference concludes by saying that Ms Castrey's contribution over the last 18 months has been substantial and extremely valuable”.
A prohibition order would prevent Ms Castrey from continuing that work. A prohibition order would also clearly deprive the public of her contribution to the profession for the period that it is in force.
In this case I have placed considerable weight on the panel’s comments concerning the lack of insight or remorse. The panel has said, “this case involves dishonesty, a lack of insight, and conduct which included placing pressure on other junior members of staff to act dishonestly. This, in the panel's view, compromises the integrity of the profession”.
I have also placed considerable weight on the finding of the panel that Ms Castrey placed pressure on other junior members of staff to act dishonestly.
I have given less weight in my consideration of sanction therefore, to the contribution that Ms Castrey has made and is making to the profession. In my view it is necessary to impose a prohibition order in order to maintain public confidence in the profession. A published decision that is not backed up by remorse or insight does not in my view satisfy the public interest requirement concerning public confidence in the profession.
For these reasons I have concluded that a prohibition order is proportionate and in the public interest in order to achieve the aims which a prohibition order is intended to achieve.
I have gone on to consider the matter of a review period. In this case the panel has recommended a 3 year review period.
I have considered the panel’s comments “the dishonesty does not include acts of financial impropriety with the aim of personal enrichment and the panel is prepared to accept the motives for Ms Castrey behaving in this way was as a means, however misguided and completely inappropriate, of improving the school's performance“.
The panel has also said that a 3 year review period would “adequately and sufficiently mark to the public the seriousness of the panel's findings”.
I have considered whether a 3 year review period reflects the seriousness of the findings and is a proportionate period to achieve the aim of maintaining public confidence in the profession. In this case, there are three factors that in my view mean that a two year review period is not sufficient to achieve the aim of maintaining public confidence in the profession. These elements are the dishonesty found, the lack of either insight or remorse, and the pressure placed on other junior members of staff to act dishonestly.
I consider therefore that a three year review period is required to satisfy the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.
This means that Ms Karen Castrey is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. She may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but not until 21 April 2020, 3 years from the date of this order at the earliest. This is not an automatic right to have the prohibition order removed. If she does apply, a panel will meet to consider whether the prohibition order should be set aside. Without a successful application, Ms Karen Castrey remains prohibited from teaching indefinitely.
This order takes effect from the date on which it is served on the teacher.