A teacher who saw a pupil outside school, took her to dinner, bought her expensive gifts and told her that he loved her has been banned from teaching for life.
Igor Zharkov was working as an assistant teacher of physics at the independent Ardingly College, West Sussex, when he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with two pupils.
Mr Zharkov was found to have developed a sexually motivated relationship with a pupil, whom he met outside school on one or more occasions, including at a hotel.
He sent her messages on social media and also a Valentine’s day card, which stated “For my wonderful girlfriend…Of all the ways to let you know I love you…my favourite way is just to hold you tightly.”
Gifts bought included earrings, shoes and flowers. He conducted one-to-one tuition lessons with her outside the school without permission from his employer and ignored instructions to stop.
Mr Zharkov also developed an inappropriate relationship with a second pupil in which he discussed his relationship with the first. These included saying, “it is not sex, not now, not until she is 18 and/or wants it”, and “I cannot stop loving her and never will”. He offered to buy this other pupil gifts on more than one occasion, discussed his personal life with her, met up with her outside school and gave her an old mobile phone to help him contact the other student.
He continued with his inappropriate contact, despite being told to stop by the school.
Mr Zharkov began at the school in 2009 and concerns were raised about his relationship with the first pupil in September 2016. Further concerns were then raised about his relationship with the second pupil and he was suspended by the school pending an investigation into these matters. He resigned from his position on 25 January 2017 and was then referred to the relevant safeguarding authorities.
A professional conduct panel of the National College for Teaching and Leadership found that his actions towards the first pupil were sexually motivated and that Mr Zharkov lacked insight or remorse about his behaviour towards the two pupils.
Mr Zharkov, a teacher described of previous good character, admitted the allegations. The panel found these were all proven and amounted to “unacceptable professional misconduct”. It recommended that Zharkov should be banned for life with no provision for a review period.