AN EXPERIENCED teacher is to launch a legal appeal after magistrates sentenced her to 140 hours community service for assaulting a nine-year-old boy.
Catherine Brandley, 52, of Padgbury Lane, Congleton, was convicted in June of common assault against a pupil at a primary school in Sandbach.
Brandley, who has 20 years experience, was just five days into a new supply post when the incident took place in September last year.
The pupil had been firing staples from a gun and shouting about going to the toilet when Brandley went to discipline him.
She was arrested after she prodded the boy in the chest and pushed him against a wall, banging his head.
Yesterday Crewe magistrates ordered the married mother-of-four to serve 140 hours in the community and to pay the pupil £100 in compensation.
Her solicitor, Peter Howland, told the court she would be lodging an appeal.
Mrs Brandley will remain suspended from teaching until her legal appeal is concluded.
If she loses the appeal, it is almost certain that she will never work as a teacher again.
In June, Crewe Magistrates Court was told that Brandley pulled the boy off a chair by his shirt before prodding him in the chest and shoving him into a wall, causing him to bang his head.
The court heard that the teacher had said that she wanted to "put the fear of God" into the youngster to stop him misbehaving.
Brandley denied common assault but was found guilty by magistrates.
The handling of the case has been strongly criticised throughout by the National Union of Teachers, which yesterday expressed dismay at the sentence.
Following the hearing, NUT spokesman Andy Kent said the matter should never have come before a courtroom. The "sorry saga" would send out damaging signals to everybody in the profession, he said.
He added: "This has had a devastating effect on Mrs Brandley and it is unhelpful for the school, the child and everyone concerned.
"It is highly unusual for this sort of incident to go all the way through the legal process. It could have been dealt with more appropriately through an internal inquiry within the school community, which is the standard practice."
The case had unnerved and shocked many within the profession, he said.
"At a time when there is a recruitment crisis in education, one of the main concerns for those contemplating a career in teaching is being vulnerable in very challenging situations when they are managing pupil behaviour," said Mr Kent.
"They could be called to account in arenas which nothing has prepared them for."
Brandley yesterday refused to comment as she left court, accompanied by her husband.
A spokesman for Cheshire County Council said that, regardless of the outcome of her appeal, she would face an internal disciplinary inquiry once legal proceedings had concluded.
"Mrs Brandley's actions will be judged, not on the outcome in court, but on whether she has breached the local education authority's code of conduct," he said.
Other than being confronted by the teacher, the pupil, who suffers from an attention deficit disorder, has faced no disciplinary action for his behaviour.