RE teacher who joked to class after seeing pupil's penis avoids censure

30th April 2010 at 01:00

An "unconventional" teacher who admitted seeing a child's pierced penis and discussing the sex lives of her pupils has escaped punishment from the General Teaching Council for England (GTC).

Rebekah Wright - who was dismissed from her post because of her behaviour - also talked about the pregnancy of another student.

The teacher was also accused of buying sixth formers drinks at a pub, as well as getting drunk at a leavers' ball and kissing a pupil. These charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Miss Wright, an RE teacher, was made head of sixth form at Hardley School near Southampton at a "challenging time" in 2005. The future of the secondary depended on improvements to post-16 education, the GTC panel heard.

She was allowed to use "considerable discretion" and sixth-form numbers grew. In July 2006 the then head Robert Underwood started investigating Miss Wright's conduct after allegations from other teachers about the "appropriateness" of her relationships with pupils.

Pupil C exposed his pierced penis to her. Other children heard about it and she jokingly told them she had "applied bandages to it". Miss Wright said she made the comment because she thought it might get children back to their work. She told the GTC panel it was a "ridiculous" thing to say and that she regretted it.

On another occasion a teacher heard pupils and Miss Wright discussing the sex life of pupil A. She said the child had started the conversation and that in "hindsight" she should not have allowed it to continue.

Miss Wright also admitted discussing the pregnancy of G, a former pupil, with other children. She said this was only in response to comments made by pupils and she had said they should not mention it because G had a brother who attended the school.

A teacher and pupil said they saw Miss Wright kiss a female sixth-former at the leavers' ball in July 2006. Miss Wright denies this and the pupil said she has "no recollection" of it.

This charge was dismissed by the GTC panel, due to "inconsistent" evidence. Pupil F and the teacher said they saw the incident at different times and the kiss was not reported to the headteacher until one week later.

The GTC panel said there was also no evidence that Miss Wright was drunk at the ball.

In November 2006, Miss Wright was sacked, and she later appealed unsuccessfully against her dismissal. The GTC panel said she had made "errors of judgment" but this didn't amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

"Miss Wright had taken on the position of head of the sixth form at a particularly challenging time," the GTC panel said. "There was considerable pressure placed upon her to develop the sixth form on which the future of the school depended.

"Miss Wright was successful in achieving that objective, although her approach was, at times, unconventional.

"Having been provided with considerable discretion, and in her enthusiasm to succeed, this led to errors of judgment on her part which have been accepted by Miss Wright and which placed at risk her professional relationship and standing with the students."

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