To sir, with love

As a young teacher Daniel Angadi was adored by girls at his school. Last week he was cleared of seducing one of them
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The Independent Culture
SHE WAS young and "hungry for love". He was adored by all the girls at the school for his boyish enthusiasm. Daniel Angadi was - and still is - by all accounts, a brilliant teacher, passionate about the subjects he taught, history and drama, and interested in the welfare of his pupils. But somewhere along the line, messy emotions intervened.

Last week at Southwark Crown Court one of his former pupils, now 28, accused Angadi, 54, of taking her virginity when she was just 14. She claimed they had sex at the school, in hotels and at his home. He accepted that he had an "extraordinarily passionate" affair with the girl - but only after she left school, aged 18.

The girl in question also told the court Angadi wrote a spoof reference when she was only 15, including the lines, "I can unhesitatingly recommend her as a lover. All in all, I would say she could manage any position."

Angadi denied many of the lurid details, and was found not guilty on five counts of indecent assault.

According to him, his involvement with the girl was "normal" until she was 17, when he wept and poured his heart out to her over the break-up of his marriage. He also said he stopped the relationship after meeting the woman who was to become his second wife. By this time the girl was at university and dating other men.

As Angadi told the court: "It was something that should have been left at the adulation it was before she left school." Adulation is really the key word here, one that most young male teachers have to come to terms with at some point in their careers, particularly if they work in a single- sex school.

At Angadi's school, however, the atmosphere seemed especially intense. "The girls all fell in love with him, of course", says Miranda, one former pupil. "One mother even complained about it, but that was what all 14- year-olds did really. We spent our whole time having crushes." Angadi, as he is known, was - and still is - an extremely popular figure with all ages, it seems. There was an appeal to cover his legal costs, to which two headmistresses, a number of parents and ex-pupils donated generous sums of money.

He would regularly produce plays with his pupils, and took one production to Edinburgh which was a great success. His mother was a successful novelist, and his father an Indian intellectual. "He was from a typical liberal, Hampstead-type background, a real egalitarian," says Amanda, an ex- pupil in her late twenties who still keeps in touch with his family. Like all the ex-pupils I spoke to, she was deeply loyal about him. "He didn't flirt, but was very enthusiastic and he always seemed younger than his years. He was hugely energetic and used to cycle to school everyday." Angadi was, by all accounts, charming and deeply compelling compared to the other, mainly female, mainly older, staff.

Yet whereas some male teachers courted female attention, Angadi appeared to have more integrity, which was another aspect of his charisma. Amanda says: "You would always get those dirty old men at school - the sort you usually associate with the details that came out in court - but he truly wasn't one of them."

Lucy, another ex-pupil now in her thirties, recalls the time Angadi took her to the British Library to work on a translation of a medieval miracle play he was producing. "He got me in by saying I was an undergraduate when I was only 17. To me that was madly exciting, and to be collaborating on something like that was great. It wasn't just the illicitness of it, but that fact that he treated me like an adult and like a colleague."

Miranda describes a competitive atmosphere where girls in her class would vie for his attentions. "He was just gorgeous - girls felt very strongly about him. All the plays we did with him were so exciting. He was such an influence on so many girls' lives. He had this mellifluous voice and taught us about Marxism." He also had an office near the drama department which he did up - with the aid of willing helpers. "Girls used to queue up to help him do that."

At one point, he asked Miranda to sit beside him during class - it was, she insists, completely innocent. "Other girls were so jealous, I remember, they wouldn't speak to me for days. Looking back, it's a bit weird, but at the time it was so innocent, paternal really."

The crossover between paternal and romantic figure was muddling for the girls, and perhaps for Angadi as well. One ex-pupil says, "He was a tremendous mentor and the only person who really treated us like equals: he cared about what we had to say." Yet for any pre-pubescent being treated as an adult can also be confusing. "I suppose we used to throw ourselves at him. But then in some ways he was like a parent, just a very attractive one," says Miranda.

Such an ambiguous combination had to, one day, end in tears.