Disgraced former Castlebrae ‘superhead’ Derek Curran denies failures over sexual abuse complaints
A disgraced “superhead” who ran one of Edinburgh’s toughest schools has denied failing to deal with complaints of sexual abuse.
Derek Curran, former Castlebrae headteacher, appeared before the teaching council on Thursday accused of a host of failures dating back to 2014 when a young woman accused a teacher at the school of sending her sexually explicit emails.
An investigation was launched during which Mr Curran was also named by the woman. She alleged he had a sexual relationship with her when she was just 15, and had his child after turning 18.
Before a teaching watchdog panel on Thursday he faced allegations of failing to “adequately assess the seriousness” or “properly conduct and progress” an investigation into the sexual harassment complaint against a science teacher.
Mr Curran is also accused of failing to take appropriate action when the historical child protection concern came to light later that same year – and failing to provide support to the young woman.
The panel heard that the student, understood to be 24 at the time, claimed she received around 40 sexually inappropriate emails from a science teacher, referred to as Teacher A.
It was revealed by the Evening News last month that the student was paid compensation by the council in January 2016 after receiving ‘inappropriate’ emails from the teacher, who was later prosecuted in court on other charges.
The woman later claimed Mr Curran had a sexual relationship with her and a whistleblower raised a complaint with council chiefs over his alleged failure to act over the claims.
Before a panel, he claimed he took the sexual harassment claim seriously and launched an investigation early in 2014 led by his deputy at the time Mark Cunningham.
But he said it was delayed as a result of Teacher A’s absence from school for several months and lack of response by the young woman to emails asking for copies of emails she had received.
Mr Curran denied failing to report the claim of historic abuse straight away in line with the council's child protection policy, but has previously stated he did tell his bosses "within days of finding out about it".
The former "superhead" who was parachuted in to help crisis-hit Castlebrae was charged with having underage sex but the case was later dropped.
The allegations surfaced under the council’s own whistleblowers scheme, recently described as a ‘significant stride forward’ by Susanne Tanner QC in a report compiled after concerns about a so-called ‘old boys’ network’ protecting senior officials and the Sean Bell scandal.
Mr Curran, 61, told the panel that senior officers at the council were ‘comfortable’ with his handling of the investigation and expressed no concerns.
The educator claimed he wasn’t ‘aware of any policies’ that would have required him to offer support to the young woman at the time – but later admitted ‘in hindsight' support should have been offered when the investigation was launched.
Curran, who had 33 years of teaching experience, was suspended in June 2014 after the woman named him as the other teacher she was accusing.
When quizzed on the decision to appoint Cunningham – who he was aware didn’t have relevant experience on conducting investigations – Curran conceded that given the seriousness of the allegations he should have appointed a trained member of staff.
Mr Curran, who also had a domestic abuse case against him thrown out of court, was dismissed in September 2015. He raised a claim of unfair dismissal against city chiefs and later won his case after employment judge Macleod found the authority "failed to follow a fair procedure".
He faces being banned from the profession.
The watchdog will also examine whether Curran’s 2016 conviction for threatening or abusive behaviour makes him unfit to teach.
In January 2014, Curran refused to leave a ward at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh where he placed two people in a state of alarm.
He is also facing claims that he failed to adhere to Edinburgh City Council’s procedures for travel expenses for the sum of £399.
The hearing continues on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.