Former Wilds Lodge teacher Mark Lonnie loses High Court appeal against ban for headbutting pupil

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A former teacher has failed in a High Court attempt to overturn a ban from the classroom for headbutting a pupil.

Art teacher Mark Lonnie, 53, claimed the decision, taken on behalf of the Education Secretary, was wrong because a disciplinary panel had recommended that he should not be banned.

But one of the country’s top judges backed the decision to ban him from teaching until at least June 2016 after the incident at Wilds Lodge School in Empingham.

Lonnie’s counsel Althea Brown said it was “most unusual” for the recommendation of the National College for Teaching and Leadership’s professional conduct panel not to be followed. She also pointed out the ban was imposed five years after the incident.

But dismissing the appeal at London’s High Court on Wednesday, Mr Justice William Davis said: “I cannot find that the respondent was wrong in reaching the decision that the panel’s recommendation should not be followed.”

Lonnie, who has the backing of his professional union, attended the hearing, but did not wish to comment.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership professional conduct panel found that in May 2009, Lonnie received a police caution for an offence of common assault against a pupil at Wilds Lodge.

The residential school caters for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Lonnie admitted to teaching a class in the art room at the school when there was an incident between Pupil A and another pupil, which resulted in Pupil A becoming very angry. Lonnie asked him to leave the classroom.

The panel found that Pupil A had subjected Lonnie to verbal abuse before pushing him in the chest. It said: “In response, Mr Lonnie head-butted Pupil A. Pupil A sustained a bloodied mouth and a chipped tooth.”

A disciplinary panel said Lonnie was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, but he was not a threat to pupils and there were no concerns about his conduct. The panel said what happened was a “spontaneous reaction in a one-off, extreme situation” and Lonnie acted “under a serious threat to his physical well-being”.

Giving the final decision on behalf of the Secretary of State in June, National College for Teaching and Leadership official Paul Heathcote disagreed and said the panel had not “sufficiently balanced the mitigation with the level of violence”. He set a two year review period and Wendesday’s decision meant Lonnie was banned from teaching anywhere until June 2016.

Lonnie joined Wilds Lodge in December 2007. His contract was terminated in June 2009.