Woodhead controversy: `My teacher abused his position and me'

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The Independent Online
MIKE WAS 26 and married. I was 14 and precocious. There was a chemistry between us and within months we were having a relationship. But looking back on my affair with my teacher, I see it was nothing less than exploitation and a serious abuse of my trust.

Chris Woodhead's remarks about sex between teachers and pupils were ignorant and dangerous. When a harmless pupil/teacher crush becomes a sexual relationship it exceeds the boundaries of acceptability. It is fraught with conflict for the teacher and pupil and forthe parents, who entrusted their child to the school, it is an act of gross betrayal.

My school, a mixed Catholic comprehensive, was in two buildings, 15 minutes walk apart. Mike would offer lifts to pupils. He was a real laid-back Sixties type. He smoked in class, rarely wore a suit, kept his hair long and treated pupils like equals. He managed to combine an easy-going defiance with a serious commitment to his profession. He was liked and respected by his colleagues and the kids.

There was a lot of eye contact; we kept "accidentally'' brushing into each other. Eventually he asked me if I'd like to go for a drink. I knew it was wrong but I was flattered. The attentions of an older man appealed to my vanity, and the illicitness was addictive. Soon afterwards, we went for a drive in the country, and he kissed me. The relationship continued for two years before I had sex with him. He was worried about having sex with me before I was 16.

Once it became a bit more serious, he left his wife and moved into a flat. I'd go there after school and at weekends, having concocted some lie.

At school, we took crazy risks. He had a storeroom at the back of his classroom, containing a few desks. It was quiet, private and an ideal place for me to "study''. It became the perfect place for us to snatch a few moments while he dodged in and out of the class, teaching.

I loved the subject he taught, and wanted to do well. I'd often get top marks because I studied hard. I know he was tougher on me than the rest of the class, but I'm sure they suspected favouritism when I did well.

Then there was the trip to France for a handful of students. Another teacher caught us in bed together, but he had his own reasons for not telling.

Eventually my parents did find out. I'd always pretended I was going out with other boys. But one night, when I was supposed to be out with "Dave'', Dave called round. I was forced to tell them something of the truth. Although my parents never confronted Mike, he decided to leave the school and go and work abroad. I was heartbroken and I needed to share my feelings with someone. I decided to tell my best friend. I was shattered to discover he had slept with her and that she, too, was full of guilt and confusion.

His job abroad didn't work out, and after a few months he came back. I challenged him about my friend. He said it was nothing, and that they hadn't had sex. The relationship limped along for a while and ended during my first term at university.

I had lived a lie for nearly five years, I'd taken so many risks - and all for nothing. I was young, and foolishly believed that when I finished university we'd be able to live together. It took me a long time to get over the affair.

I felt he'd abused the power he held. But perhaps a more damning legacy of the affair is that I had to bury my feelings to make all that deception and betrayal bearable. The affair coloured the rest of my life and my relationships. I lost my heart to someone in a position of authority very early in my life; someone who betrayed his position, and then betrayed me.

Names in this article, including the author's, have been changed.