A SCHOOL for vulnerable boys has defended its decision to retain a staff member who was convicted of harassment.

Parents contacted the Oxford Mail with concerns after Gregory Hale was allowed back to work at Northfield School in Oxford, despite being fined and subjected to a restraining order by magistrates.

A Mr G Hale is still listed on the school's website as a pastoral support worker, although Oxfordshire County Council said he is 'not currently working with children.'

The special school in Blackbird Leys, which teaches boys with social, emotional and mental health needs, was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted last year.

Parents said Mr Hale was not in school for several weeks but then their children reported seeing him back.

One, who asked to remain anonymous, said people are 'up in arms' that he has been allowed back.

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The parent added: "It's a failing school for vulnerable boys - it's in special measures - and now they've got a convicted criminal working there.

"Regardless of our belief in second chances, everybody is shocked that he has come back.

"They are bright kids and they know exactly what has happened. They saw him in the paper - it's not a private thing now."

Parents had heard rumblings about the conviction then saw it confirmed in the Oxford Mail's Scales of Justice section last month, rounding up cases from the magistrates' courts.

The information, taken from court documents, stated: "Gregory Hale, 45, of Evenlode, Banbury, was convicted of harassment without violence between August 28 and November 9 in Oxford.

"He was made subject to a restraining order against his victim and must pay a fine of £450, a victim surcharge of £45 and court costs of £775."

A county council spokesman said: "We understand parents’ concerns about this matter.

"We would like to reassure them that there was a formal investigation and the member of staff is not considered to be a risk to children.

"The investigation was overseen by the county council officer responsible for ensuring that staff are safe to work with children.

"Following HR advice, the member of staff has returned to work and is not currently working with children."

Mr Hale was approached for comment.

The school teaches boys aged 10-18, and had 69 on roll during its last Ofsted visit.

It was rated 'inadequate' in all areas in November and placed in special measures, and safeguarding was among concerns, inspectors raised.

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The report said safer recruitment procedures had not been followed and its complaints policy had 'lapsed' since it was due for review in 2017.

The school will be forced to convert into an academy due to the inadequate judgement, and The Gallery Trust is looking to take it over.

Leaders have been driving improvements since going into special measures, with support from Oxfordshire County Council and the trust, although it has not yet been given a new rating.

The latest check-up inspection by Ofsted in March concluded: "Important steps have been taken to strengthen safeguarding practice and culture.

"Training has been prioritised for staff, including about the matters contained in ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018.'"