Decision on former Skegness area headteacher after misconduct hearing

Halton  Holgate Primary School. ANL-171128-103004001
Halton Holgate Primary School. ANL-171128-103004001

A decision has been made on a former headteacher at Halton Holegate Primary after allegations of misconduct at the school.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership has revealed no order has been made against Damian Sunter, following a hearing by a panel held in September.

A report on the hearing has been made public after recommendations to the Secretary of State for Education, which outlined a catalogue of allegations regarding Mr Sunter’s professional conduct.

It states among the allegations Mr Sunter admitted were failure to fulfil his responsibilities in respect of the school’s finance, inappropriately delegating his teaching duties to a teaching assistant, failure to comply with the school’s sickness absence policy, failure to provide appropriate support and review of the school’s newly qualified teacher, and falling asleep at the school during school hours on one or more occasions. Mr Sunter also admitted he declined assistance from another member of staff when dealing with a vulnerable child, but he denied that this was inappropriate.

Mr Sunter qualified as a teacher in 2001 and worked at three different schools before becoming headteacher in 2013. This was his first appointment as headteacher, although he was assistant headteacher at one school and a year leader and joint phase leader at another.

Halton Holgate Primary was described as a small three-class school in a rural location. The report stated in addition to being headteacher, Mr Sunter was required to teach for two days each week.

In July 2015, Lincolnshire County Council began an investigation in relation to concerns that had been expressed in a whistleblowing letter. During the course of the investigation, various individuals were interviewed, including Mr Sunter himself.

The report stated Mr Sunter has admitted the majority of the allegations against him and the panel has been provided with a Statement of Agreed/Disputed Facts.

In making the decision, Alan Meyrick, on behalf of the Secretary of State, said: “The findings of unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute that have been made against Mr Sunter were failures to act rather than deliberate acts on his part.

“Mr Sunter was not acting under duress, but the panel found that he was under considerable pressure and, furthermore, the support that was in place for him, as a newly appointed headteacher, was inadequate. In addition, there was a series of challenging staffing issues, including the departure of the senior teacher. Having heard evidence from Mr Sunter, the panel accepts that the pressures he faced at that time, in conjunction with his health issues, impacted on his performance as a school leader.

“Mr Sunter did have a previously good history and the panel accepts that the conduct was a consequence of the situation in which Mr Sunter found himself at the school.

“Mr Sunter has stated that he has no intention to seek a position as headteacher in the future. In this case, the panel has determined that a recommendation for a prohibition order will not be appropriate in this case.”

Debbie Barnes, director of Children’s Services at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “As soon as the allegations against the head teacher came to light we took appropriate action to refer the issue to the relevant panel for investigation. We respect the findings of the report from the National College for Teaching and Leadership.”