A music teacher has avoided a ban from teaching after a professional conduct panel found that his touching of pupils was not sexually motivated.
Simon Marsh taught at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Blackpool, between 2014 and 2017.
He was accused of having placed his hands on or near a pupil’s waist while she was near a piano keyboard, massaged a pupil’s shoulders during a lesson, played with a pupil’s hair and placed his hand on top of a pupil’s hand.
Mr Marsh was also said to have made a comment to the effect of “I’m glad you’re wearing shorts” when a pupil’s skirt blew up. He denied all of these allegations.
Teacher's touching 'not for sexual gratification'
A professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulation Agency noted Mr Marsh had previously been told about concerns regarding his close physical proximity to pupils and he had been given a formal warning for inappropriate proximity to a female student.
The panel’s report says it found the accusation that he touched a pupil’s hand inappropriately not proven, after hearing that he had done so to move the pupil’s fingers to the correct position on the keyboard.
The panel found the other counts of touching a pupil’s waist, massaging or rubbing a pupil’s shoulders, playing with a pupil’s hair and making an inappropriate comment were proven but considered they fell short of unacceptable professional conduct.
It said that “there was absolutely no evidence that Mr Marsh’s actions were in pursuit of sexual gratification”.
The panel found the actions which were proven were contrary to written management advice given to him in February 2016 and a recommendation in a formal warning in July 2016, and stated: "Mr Marsh’s behaviour in acting contrary to management advice and warning amounts to unacceptable professional conduct."
It added this was “misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession”.
These concerns had been raised with him as part of formal disciplinary procedures and the panel did not consider that Mr Marsh had in response adapted his behaviour in accordance with the advice given.
The panel said there was a strong public interest consideration in retaining Mr Marsh in the profession since “no doubt has been cast upon his abilities as an educator”, he was remorseful and there had been numerous positive character references including from the headteacher.
He had “made a huge contribution in his specialist area and was a hard-working teacher”, the panel concluded.
It also felt that publication of the report was “sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher, to demonstrate the standards of behaviour that are not acceptable and meet the public interest requirement of declaring proper standards of the profession”.
Decision maker Alan Meyrick agreed the panel’s recommendation that no prohibition order should be imposed.