Stretford , Urmston , Trafford Photographer

Grooming warning took the biscuit

Education chiefs in Northern Ireland have been eating humble pie after claims a school dinner lady was warned she could be open to an allegation of grooming for allowing a child to have a biscuit
The education body covering St Mary’s Primary School in Brookeborough,
Co Fermanagh, has been asked to apologise to the unnamed woman for the way it investigated the incident.

The controversial warning said to have been issued to the dinner lady came to light after an investigation by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

A child at the school had asked if they could have a biscuit and the woman had told a canteen colleague it was okay to hand the pupil the snack.

The woman’s husband said his wife had never been accused of grooming, but claimed the school told her she could have left herself open to the accusation.

After being called to a series of meetings with senior school staff, she made a complaint over the issue to the governing Western Education and Library Board (WELB).

Her husband said she had endured a nightmare since the saga began in 2008, as rumour and gossip had spread while the issue was dealt with. He said: “It has been a horrendous two-plus years for my wife because there was a shadow hanging over her that she had done something wrong.”

The details have emerged in the region’s Impartial Reporter newspaper which claimed the confidential ombudsman’s report was critical of how the board had handled the case.

A spokesperson for the WELB said: “The Board has noted the findings of the Ombudsman’s Report issued in September 2010 and is presently actioning the recommendations.

“Neither the Board nor any of its employees were, at any time, party to any accusation of grooming against the Unit Catering Supervisor referred to in recent press reports.