Sacked South Tyneside headteacher made investigator jump when asked to shout loudly

A headteacher who was considered a risk to children made an investigator jump when he was asked to demonstrate how loudly he could shout.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 6:00 am
Former Dunn Street Primary School headteacher Stewart Reader is fighting his dismissal by South Tyneside Council at an ongoing employment tribunal.

Details of the encounter emerged on the second day of Stewart Reader’s legal challenge against South Tyneside Council’s decision to dismiss him for gross misconduct after 17 years in charge of Jarrow’s Dunn Street Primary School.

Mr Reader, who was sacked, reinstated and sacked again during a lengthy investigation lasting 14 months, is contesting the outcome at an ongoing employment tribunal.

The Newcastle hearing has learned about his first interview with council investigating officer Judi Libbey following his suspension in January 2018.

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Dunn Street Primary School, in Jarrow.

Notes from the meeting indicate that Mr Reader admitted “I could be quite gruff” towards children and that “my demeanour could be potentially scary”.

But he added when asked to define “gruff” that “shouting is not my default setting because I am not angry”.

The notes from the meeting go on to say: “When he demonstrated how loud he could shout in the interview, this was loud enough to make the interviewer jump even though she was expecting it.”

Richard Stubbs, representing Mr Reader, insisted there was a “big distinction” between how Mr Reader was asked to shout in the interview and how he spoke to children at school.

Among the allegations to be investigated after whistle-blowing complaints prompted his suspension was that Mr Reader was heard by a witness outside his office to shout at a child.

But Mr Stubbs, cross examining council head of learning and early help Beverley Scanlon, said: “If a child is really distressed because they have been brought to me because they have done something bad and they are crying loudly, the only way you could get them to hear you is by raising your voice or speaking over the volume of their crying, is it not?”

Mrs Scanlon replied: “I do not think it is the only way. You could speak to the child in a calm way to calm them down.”

Mr Reader was initially dismissed in December 2018 after eight allegations were found proven against him.

But he was reinstated the following month after an appeal panel upheld only three of the claims.

The council, however, dismissed him again in March 2019 after deciding that the proven allegations, which covered safeguarding issues and his supposed behaviour towards children, constituted gross misconduct.

It also described him “as having a bullying and intimidating style” and said there were “reports of staff being fearful of challenging Mr Reader in case there were repercussions”.

Mr Reader is not expected to give evidence at the tribunal until after an expected adjournment this week.

While in charge, the school was graded by education watchdog Ofsted in October 2011 as “good”, the second highest of four categories, with inspectors commenting that “the highly experienced and well-respected headteacher is strongly committed to driving improvement”.

A shorter inspection in 2017 concluded that “the school continues to be good”.