Record numbers of teachers banned for sexual misconduct

Exclusive: NSPCC calls figures ‘alarming’, warning of the damaging effects on children

Jon Sharman
Sunday 09 July 2017 21:19 BST
The number of teachers banned for sexual misconduct is at the highest level for three years
The number of teachers banned for sexual misconduct is at the highest level for three years

Record numbers of teachers are being banned from the classroom for sexual misconduct, The Independent can reveal.

A third of teachers struck off last year were involved in sex-related cases, and in the highest numbers for three years, according to exclusive new figures.

More were banned for sexual misconduct last year alone, than were forced out of the profession because of alcohol, drugs or violence in total during the last five years.

In some cases, teachers used apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp to send inappropriate messages to pupils.

The NSPCC children's charity called the figures “alarming” and warned of the damaging effects of abusing children’s trust.

Documents released to The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act show 42 teachers were handed prohibition orders because of sexual misconduct in 2016-17, up from 31 the year before and 35 in 2014-15.

In one recent case, a teacher in Wiltshire – 34-year-old Nathan Jones – was found to have asked a child to send him an explicit image of herself over Skype. He also asked if she had a webcam so they could engage in sexual activity.

Reports of hearings in other cases published within the last few months include the following incidents:

  • A supply teacher in Doncaster took a pupil home for three- and four-way sexual activity. Francoise Jenkins, 45, also paid another person approximately £13,000 – partly so he would cover up her relationship with the girl.
  • Dean Richard Johnson, 52, admitted contacting a pupil through Facebook, buying her underwear, inviting her to his classroom for sex and recording them together on a camera bought with school funds. In 2015, he was separately convicted at Guildford Crown Court of possessing extreme pornography and jailed for eight months, suspended for two years.
  • John Flatley, 30, sent sexual Snapchat messages to a female pupil after attending a prom at a school in south-west London. These included: “A vibrator or dildo would u like both?” and “Well you do love ur bed so u might as well spoil me with snaps”.
  • Education adjudicators said they found the “persistence and suggestiveness” of WhatsApp messages sent by Grant Foyle, 29, a drama teacher in Basingstoke, to a male pupil “very disturbing”. They included “reference to matters of sexuality including experimentation [and] threesomes”.

The way the infractions are categorised has changed. Sexual misconduct and “breach of boundaries/trust” were counted together until 2014-15, preventing a direct comparison of the number of bans for specifically sexually-motivated misconduct for those years.

However, 65 teachers were banned for either sexual misconduct or breach of boundaries in 2016-17. This was the highest combined rate in five years, up from 53 in 2015-16, and 59, 28 and 51 in the preceding years.

The National Council for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), an executive agency created in 2013 to improve academic standards, provided figures for the last five financial years. Cases are referred by employers, police, members of the public, the Disclosure and Barring Service and others.

In that time, 25 teachers were banned over alcohol or drugs, while 14 were struck off for violence. Eleven were removed from the profession over indecent images between 2014 and 2017.

An NSPCC spokeswoman told The Independent: “Children should be safe at school and with their teachers, so these figures are very alarming.

“Teachers and other adults supervising young people build up trust through their close contact every day.

“So it is particularly damaging when that trust is abused or broken and sexually inappropriate behaviour takes place.”

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show 42 teachers were banned for sexual misconduct last year

Laura Higgins, operations manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre, told The Independent: “If people want to get access to children when they shouldn’t, they will take up professions that allow them to have contact with young people.

“Obviously there’s been a massive rise in the use of mobile phones. That may lead to more risky behaviour.”

Head teachers and governors must ensure there are safeguards “throughout every bit of the school” and “right through the recruitment process,” Ms Higgins said. “Safeguarding children should be at the centre of everything that a school does – and in most schools, it is.”

She clarified: “Newly qualified teachers do get training about appropriate use of social media. Most schools these days have acceptable use policies,” adding she thought training had improved in recent years. “There’s a lot less naivety.”

Amanda Brown, assistant general secretary at the NUT, told The Independent: “People have said that they believe that sometimes there’s not enough focus on behaviour issues and behaviour training [during initial training].

“But when it comes to issues in school, we would put a lot of focus on there being really clear processes at school level.

“That would go for social media and e-safety as well as other kinds of safety issues. It’s for schools to make sure that they have proper procedures in place.”

It means “being clear with teachers about how their relationships with pupils, and pupils’ families, should be conducted,” she said.

Of the apparent rise in cases, she added: “We’ve been saying for a long time that we think it’s really important that those policies, both from Government and schools, are embedded properly and people know how to use them.

“It could be that that’s embedded more. Child protection is so much more in the news generally. That’s a positive thing.”

Ms Brown said some 250 NUT members approach the union each year for help with accusations against them. Most cases involve the alleged use of force – breaking up a fight or preventing children running in corridors – and she added that only a “tiny proportion” end in a criminal conviction or an unprofessional conduct ruling.

Young people worried about the issues outlined in this story can talk to NSPCC’s Childline on 0800 1111, while adults can call the charity’s helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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