Loving teacher can help learning

11th November 2005 at 00:00
As many as 1,500 sexual relationships could be taking place between pupils and teachers every year, according to an academic who married her history teacher. Dr Pat Sikes, who fell for her teacher husband as a 14-year-old pupil, believes an "erotic charge" in the classroom can aid teaching.

And she claims Britain is in the grip of a moral panic over teacher-pupil sexual affairs.

The education lecturer at Sheffield university based her study on interviews with colleagues and pupils over the past 25 years. In her paper, "Scandalous stories and dangerous liaisons: When female pupils and male teachers fall in love", she tells of platonic relationships which blossom into full-blown love affairs.

In one case she recounts how a 17-year-old student had a sexual relationship with her 35-year-old study supervisor. But she also outlines affairs which begin with pupils as young as 13.

Dr Sikes said: "Sexual relationships between pupils and their teachers were criminalised in 2003 - even if the pupil is aged 16 and therefore above the age of legal consent."

She added: "Expressions of sexuality provide a major currency and resource in the everyday exchanges of school life ... and nowhere more so than in the seductive nature and erotic charge often characteristic of 'good'

teaching."

Her research, which is due to be published next year, states that most people will be aware of a teacher-pupil relationship from their secondary school days.

Although she never encountered a case of a female teacher and male pupil relationship in her research, she tells one lesbian story and gives four accounts of gay relationships that began in the classroom.

Dr Sikes met her husband, David Sheard, in 1970 on her first day at upper school, aged 14, and his first day as a 22-year-old teacher.

She said: "It wasn't until two years later, on the evening that he left the school to take up a post elsewhere, that we explicitly and unequivocally declared our feelings for and to each other."

Dr Sikes claims such teacher-pupil affairs happened at her liberal comprehensive school in Leicestershire, and were not seen as sordid.

But Rhys Williams, communications, campaigns and political officer for the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said Dr Sikes's views were not helpful to teachers who were carving out valuable relationships with their pupils built on respect and a shared love of subjects.

He said: "Her work sullies good relationships between pupils and teachers which are not sexual.

"There was a time when teachers were people who simply taught in front of a class. But I suppose there can be a certain amount of affection between teachers and pupils which is positive and not based on sex."

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