A HEAD teacher charged with assault on the word of three children – one of whom had smoked cannabis that day – has been cleared.

Eve Ritchie-Fallon has been suspended for a year since she being accused of slapping a teenage boy in the face when he refused to stop smoking at the Forest Education Centre at Dibden Purlieu.

In court, prosecutors relied on the evidence of two teenagers – one who was high on cannabis and another who changed her story.

Mrs Ritchie-Fallon transformed the failing school – a pupil referral unit which deals with problem children between the ages of 11 and 16 – into praised by inspectors.

But despite dragging the centre out of special measures and overseeing its transformation into a “good” school, Mrs Ritchie-Fallon, 57, was forced to defend herself before Southampton magistrates following an allegation – now proved unfounded – that she slapped a boy in November when he refused to stop smoking on school premises.

Mrs Ritchie-Fallon was acquitted following a three-day hearing in which: * a key prosecution witness, a boy, admitted he had been smoking cannabis on the morning of the incident; * the other witness, a girl, changed her story in court; * four members of the education centre’s staff were called upon to give evidence, despite none of them actually witnessing the incident.

Mrs Ritchie-Fallon remains suspended from work pending further internal investigations by council chiefs.

Ron Clooney, of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said the system was flawed and needed to be changed.