A teacher has been barred for the profession for three years after he engaged in a sexual relationship with a pupil.
Christopher Miguel Campo Austen, 29, began his NQT year as a modern languages teacher at Tolworth Girls’ School and Sixth Form in Surrey in September 2016.
Between October and December 2016, he started a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old sixth-form pupil at the school after meeting her at a supermarket where she worked part-time.
A professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulations Agency (TRA) found that while Mr Austen was initially unaware the pupil was a student at his school, he “failed to determine which school [the pupil] attended or disclose the school at which he was teaching”.
He also failed to end the relationship once he realised that the pupil attended his school, or to inform Tolworth Girls’ School of the relationship.
Following a disciplinary hearing in April 2018, Mr Austen was dismissed from Tolworth Girls’ School.
Mr Austen waived his right to attend the panel hearing, yet the panel was satisfied he was fully aware of the proceedings and charges against him. In an email to the panel, he said, “I am past the point of caring…do what you want.”
The panel noted the relationship began outside the school, as Mr Austen met the pupil while she was working. However, in an interview with the investigating officer, both Mr Austen and the pupil admitted they had had a “sexual relationship.”
Furthermore, when interviewed during the school’s disciplinary investigation, Mr Austen said: “‘I knew she was a student and she knew I was a teacher, but we had no idea we were both at [the School].”
The panel found that given Mr Austen was a teacher in the local area and the pupil was of school age, it was “incumbent” on him to find out where she went to school.
Evidence of the relationship came to light only in 2017. Asked by the panel why he did not report the relationship to the school, Mr Austen said he was “scared” as it was his first term as a teacher, and “didn’t want…to affect her studies”.
The panel also found that Mr Austen failed to end the relationship. The pupil subsequently ended the relationship on Christmas Eve 2016, as she said the situation had “started to feel uncomfortable” and she “felt he had a duty of care to me”.
Mr Austen also went to the supermarket where the pupil worked in an attempt to restart the relationship. While he denied this allegation, saying that he frequently shopped there, the panel found the pupil to be a compelling witness, who “was clear and thoughtful in her manner.”
She stated that Mr Austen had “turned up at work twice in the car park to talk about it when he knew I had a shift". "He gave me a letter where he was asking to get back together again,” she said in a statement.
Hearing evidence from Witnesses A and B, both members of the school’s senior leadership team, the panel noted Mr Austen was described by both as a “good teacher with no classroom issues, respected by his colleagues and peers”. The pupil also stated she was not one of Mr Austen’s pupils, and that “he didn’t groom me; I was a consenting adult”.
While the panel considered whether there might have been some “naivety” on Mr Austen’s part as a newly qualified teacher, they found he “displayed limited insight or remorse,” regarding his conduct, and therefore recommended that a prohibition order be imposed with immediate effect.
The secretary of state concluded that Mr Austen had displayed a “laissez faire attitude” to teachers’ standards and prohibited him from teaching indefinitely until 17 June 2022. On this date, Mr Austen will be able to apply for the order to be removed.