Facebook predator wanted sexual relationship with pupils

28th January 2011 at 00:00
Private investigators can't trace teacher who also tried to touch and kiss girl victims

A "sexually motivated" teacher who tried to touch and kiss a vulnerable pupil having contacted her and another girl on Facebook has been banned from the profession for 10 years.

Paul Houghton, who taught at the North School in Ashford, Kent, gave the two pupils his mobile and home telephone numbers and exchanged text and Facebook messages with them between June and November 2008, the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) heard.

Mr Houghton abused his position of trust and "exploited" pupils, seriously affecting their well-being, the council said.

He "deliberately" moved away from his home to avoid his GTC hearing and private investigators have failed to find his whereabouts, according to the disciplinary panel.

Mr Houghton made "comments of a sexual nature" towards one pupil and suggested meeting her. He tried to touch and kiss her and put pressure on her to take up a relationship with him.

His messages to the 16-year-old were "explicit" and the GTC panel said the "tone of those communications demonstrate a desire by Mr Houghton to establish a sexual relationship".

The pupil was "emotionally vulnerable" and had been treated at an adolescent mental health clinic, the panel said.

Mr Houghton gave confidential law exam results to another pupil via Facebook. He also failed to pass on to child protection staff information that the girl - who was bereaved - had told him about sexual relationships, smoking and drinking.

He gave the girl legal advice, met her alone in school and gave her a birthday present.

Teachers at the school referred the case to Kent County Council social services and the police.

Mr Houghton admitted exchanging text and Facebook messages with a pupil in his form group to deputy headteacher Adrienne Smith.

Ms Smith told the disciplinary panel she was "wholly shocked" when she read the messages and could not get Mr Houghton to "understand that his behaviour was inappropriate".

"Mr Houghton abused his position of trust and ignored basic child protection rules, despite having had appropriate training," GTC panel chair Oona Stannard said.

"He put pupils' welfare at risk.

"Mr Houghton's behaviour seriously affected the well-being of pupils and he has been guilty of abuse of his position of trust, involving vulnerable young people.

"The committee considers a suspension order would not be sufficient, and that it is necessary, and proportionate, to make a prohibition order."

The committee decided that Mr Houghton will be allowed to apply to register as a teacher again in 10 years. It said it needed to balance the need to protect the public with the possibility that Mr Houghton might be able to satisfy the GTC in future that he is a fit person to work with children.

EXAM CHEAT

34 papers fixed

A stressed headteacher who altered answers on 34 examination papers completed by her pupils has been banned from administering school tests for two years. Frances Fish was under "significant pressure" when she tampered with the exam papers in May 2009, trying to deal with personal problems and working in a "difficult challenging environment with some unsupportive staff", according to the GTC. Mrs Fish, head of Shoreham Village School in Kent, altered answers in exams in English, mental arithmetic, science and maths.

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