FOUR members of staff were sacked from a special needs school and may never work with children due to their unacceptable behaviour.

An accidental audio recording on an iPad belonging to a pupil at Market Field School, in School Road, Elmstead Market, uncovered what head teacher Ruth Whitehead said were “serious concerns around safeguarding under the categories of neglect and emotional harm".

Ms Whitehead was notified of the content of the recording by the child’s concerned parent in December.

In a letter to parents today she wrote: “On December 16, one of the children came into school with their iPad set to audio record.

“The audio recording captures a full day within the classroom and highlighted serious concerns around safeguarding.

“The audio file was found by the child’s mother at the start of the Christmas holiday and she notified me that evening, December 20.

“I contacted the local authority designated officer early the following morning.

"The LADO confirmed this to be a staff conduct matter rather than a safeguarding matter and this informed the investigation process.”

The involved staff members were formally suspended on January 3 before the start of the spring term, while Ms Whitehead and the school’s HR consultants investigated the incident.

The head’s letter continued: “I concluded gross misconduct had occurred and referred the matter to [the chief executive] and the disciplinary board of the Hope Learning Community Trust.

“As an outcome of this process, staff members have lost their jobs and have been referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service to have their suitability to ever work with children or vulnerable adults assessed independently.

“It is not always possible to provide full details about a disciplinary investigation as it is happening, or indeed immediately afterwards.

“This is for reasons of confidentiality towards children, their families and the staff members involved, as well as to protect the integrity of the investigation process.

“We have now reached a point where it is appropriate to share with all our families what happened.”

Ms Whitehead said she was “devastated” by the shocking incident, as was the trust’s chief executive and former headteacher Gary Smith.

“I cannot articulate fully the absolute devastation, shock and disbelief felt by myself, Gary and all the staff who work at Market Field School,” she said.

The headteacher continued: “What happened falls well below the high expectations we have for staff conduct and the values we stand for as a school. Our staff are dedicated, hardworking individuals, passionate about providing the best experiences for your children every day.

“On behalf of Market Field School, I am so very sorry this happened.

“As part of our investigation, I asked Adam Dean, [headteacher of Chatten Free School], to conduct an audit into processes across the autism bases, expanding his remit from looking at our curriculum offer which he was already doing for the school.

“On the back of this audit, I am confident that what happened was an isolated incident. We have had open and honest conversations with all staff about conduct and expectations.

“I understand this letter may cause concern and anxiety.

“The safety, wellbeing and happiness of your children is my highest priority and I know this to be a sentiment shared by the whole school team.”