Classroom ban after sex with former pupil

4th January 2013 at 00:00
Guidance teacher also worked while drunk and gave his email address to other children

A guidance teacher has been struck off after having sex with a former pupil who had learning difficulties.

Matthew Connor, a former history teacher at Braidburn School in Edinburgh, was also found to have attended work under the influence of alcohol and overstepped professional boundaries by giving two other pupils his personal email address.

Mr Connor admitted having a sexual relationship with "Pupil A", whom he had taught since she was 12 and was still under 18, shortly after she left school. This relationship lasted from July 2008 to March 2009.

The special school's head described Pupil A as "vulnerable", with "a number of learning difficulties". Mr Connor had been her guidance teacher and would have known of her vulnerability.

The GTCS's fitness to teach panel considered that Mr Connor had lacked judgement and insight, and failed to respect his unique position of trust, when in a statement he said that "within the context of what took place between us, (Pupil A) was not a vulnerable individual".

The panel found that Mr Connor - who told an occupational health therapist that he had an alcohol problem - had attended work under the influence over a long period, and continued to do so despite the matter being raised by the headteacher.

Mr Connor's passing of his personal email to "Pupil B" and "Pupil D" would not have been viewed so seriously in isolation; but, given the other incidents, it became "another example of (his) lack of judgement".

Meanwhile, a Clackmannanshire technological education teacher, who prepared revision lists using a colleague's insider knowledge, has been cleared to continue in the profession, after a disciplinary panel could not prove she was aware the information had come from exam papers.

Sabrina Ferguson, who was working at Alloa's Lornshill Academy, made revision lists in 2010 which closely matched the content and order of questions in various SQA exam papers. She told the GTCS that she did not have any knowledge about the papers and had simply used her skills and experience.

The fitness to teach panel found that the revision lists "could not be attributed in terms of their accuracy to skill alone".

Alan Smithyman, whom the panel described as "the most experienced technological education teacher in Scotland", gave evidence that the lists could not have been made without knowledge of the contents of the Standard grade General and Credit, Intermediate 2 and Higher graphic communication papers.

The panel found that the source of Mrs Ferguson's knowledge was Bob Roberts, a vetter for the Scottish Qualifications Authority with whom she had worked at Lornshill Academy.

But it felt that the complaint against Mrs Ferguson left open the "crucial" question of whether she knew that the information supplied by Mr Roberts reflected the content of exams.

"By a narrow majority, the panel found that the General Teaching Council had not shown on the balance of probabilities that (she) possessed that knowledge," a written judgement stated. "The complaint was found proved but was subject to this important limitation."

It was decided that the actions of Mrs Ferguson, who is in her early forties, did not impair her fitness to teach. The panel had been "unable to uphold the submission that (her) honesty and integrity had been called into question in relation to her actions in 2010, or that (her) conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher".

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk

SELF-REMOVAL FROM REGISTER

Glasgow primary teacher Patrick McGrail has voluntarily removed himself from the teaching register after admitting that he had not reached required standards of competence over a period of 18 months.

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