Schools boss sacked over pupils sex scandal probe

Karen Prophet when she was Head teacher at Firrhill High School, in Edinburgh.

Karen Prophet when she was Head teacher at Firrhill High School, in Edinburgh.

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One of the city’s top education figures has been sacked after a council investigation into how she handled claims against a headteacher who was later charged with domestic abuse.

It is understood senior education manager Karen Prophet was suspended towards the end of last year after an inquiry into how she reacted to allegations made against Derek Curran, the former head of Castlebrae Community High, pictured below.

Castlebrae Community High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Castlebrae Community High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Today, lawyers acting for Ms Prophet confirmed her employment had been terminated, but insisted she would be appealing against the decision.

The council’s probe is said to have looked at whether Ms Prophet acted robustly and quickly enough after receiving reports that Mr Curran, 54, had behaved in a sexually improper manner towards pupils at schools where he was employed.

Mr Curran last year appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in connection with multiple assault charges brought by his estranged wife and another woman and was freed on bail.

Dubbed a “super-head”, he was drafted into Castlebrae in June 2013 as part of efforts to turn the struggling school around after it was saved from closure. Ms Prophet, previously headteacher at Firrhill High and assistant head at Inveralmond Community High, is understood to have had a close working relationship with the former head.

She was one of the city education department’s most senior officers, with responsibility for improving schools across Edinburgh, and is believed to have taken home a salary of between £70,000 and £80,000.

Ms Prophet’s sacking will come as a further blow to the education department, after Mike Rosendale – her former superior – announced his early retirement at the end of the month.

And a council source said the sacking would increase the pressure on the position of education director Gillian Tee.

It comes after the Evening News told on Tuesday how the council was investigating allegations that a vulnerable Castlebrae student’s complaint about improper behaviour by one of her teachers was effectively ignored for four months.

The council insider said: “Her [Ms Tee] role as director should be examined because the buck stops with the director – it’s their department.”

Ms Prophet’s lawyer, Dawn Dickson, said her client was “deeply shocked and concerned” at the decision reached by Edinburgh City Council.

She said: “She has strenuously defended her position during the internal proceedings and will be pursuing an internal appeal against the termination of her employment.

“Thereafter if necessary she will pursue all avenues open to her through the Employment Tribunal system. No further comment can be made at this time.”

In January, Castlebrae High parent leaders called on the education department to “sort itself out” in the wake of the growing scandal.

But today Susan Heron, parent council vice-chair, said she was “gobsmacked” to hear Ms Prophet had lost her job.

She said: “I knew there was things going on. It’s good that something has been happening but I think a more thorough investigation is needed.”

Councillor Mike Bridgman, who represents Craigmillar, said: “This is the first I’ve heard about the decision. However, it’s good to see that the investigation that has been going on for nearly a year is starting to show results.”

A city council spokesperson said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on an individual case. It is important to stress, however, that the protection of students is paramount and we will always take steps to ensure that this is upheld.

“In addition to this, senior officers have a responsibility to follow council procedures at all times to help us keep our young people safe.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com