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Sheffield music teacher struck off for sexual relationship with former pupil

James Waiters struck off – despite recommendation from conduct panel that prohibition order 'not appropriate'

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James Waiters struck off – despite recommendation from conduct panel that prohibition order 'not appropriate'

A teacher has been struck off for having a relationship “of a sexual nature” with a former pupil.

James Waiters, 38, who taught music at High Storrs School in Sheffield, was found by the national professional conduct panel for teachers to have engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with the former student and to have subsequently lied about it in a disciplinary meeting.

However, while the panel recommended that he should not be struck off for the relationship – which is still ongoing – the education secretary’s representative disregarded the recommendation and served him with a prohibition order.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership panel looked at three allegations. The first was that Mr Waiters had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with the former pupil (“Witness A”) during 2015. The second allegation was that he lied to the headteacher during a disciplinary investigation meeting by denying he was in the relationship. The third was that he had acted dishonestly by doing so.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr Waiters admitted the facts of the second allegation, but denied the first and third.

In September 2014 Mr Waiters started teaching Witness A, who was then a Year 13 pupil at High Storrs. In December 2014 he began to tutor her privately at home.

In May 2015, Witness A began a period of study leave in advance of her A levels and was no longer present at the school on a continuous basis. She turned 18 in early July 2015.

There was a conflict in the understanding of the precise date she officially left the school. A letter from the school within the hearing papers indicated that she came off the roll on 17 July 2015, but in oral evidence the former headteacher of High Storrs said she did not come off until 31 August.

Witness A said that in her mind she left the school when her study leave started in May.

Relevant dates

The panel’s decision notice says the precise date was of “particular relevance”, because Witness A and Mr Waiters admitted to starting a relationship on 14 August 2015, which became sexual shortly thereafter. 

Mr Waiters denied the first allegation because he disputed the relationship was inappropriate. However, the panel concluded “the fact that the relationship became sexual so soon after the end of the summer term, whether or not Witness A had formally come off the roll, was such that it was certainly inappropriate”.

Mr Waiters accepted that when he attended a disciplinary investigation meeting in November 2015, he denied he was in a relationship with Witness A. However, he denied that he acted dishonestly – he said he panicked during the meeting and made a “big” mistake. Within less than 24 hours he requested another meeting with the head to tell “the whole truth”.

However, the panel said that while the dishonesty “may have been relatively short-lived”, it “did not detract from the fact that it was dishonest to have not provided truthful answers and Mr Waiters knew that to be so”.

Panel conclusions

The panel upheld all three allegations against Mr Waiters. It also considered “mitigating factors”, such as the fact the Mr Waiters “had a good prior history”, “demonstrated insight into his failings” and showed “remorse for his actions”.

The panel did not consider Mr Waiters to pose a continuing risk to pupils because there was no previous similar behavior, and he and Witness A remain in a relationship to this day.

The panel concluded it was “not of the view that prohibition is a proportionate and appropriate measure”.

While the education secretary’s representative, Alan Meyrick, said the case was “very challenging”, he judged that the panel had “not given sufficient consideration as to how the public interest and the public reputation of the profession will be harmed by a decision not to impose a prohibition order”. For this reason, he decided to strike Mr Waiters off. 

Mr Waiters will be able to request a review to set aside the prohibition after two years. He also has the right to appeal to the High Court within 28 days of the prohibition order being served.

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