Teacher accused of 'unnecessary' touching is suspended

7th January 2011 at 00:00

A teacher who "touched" a teenage pupil and lied about being sacked after accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards female students has escaped a permanent ban from the profession.

The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) found Jason Cunningham guilty of touching a pupil near her breasts on two occasions in 200506, while he was working at Garforth Community College in Leeds. He received a formal reprimand from the school, where he had worked since 2000, after the pupil's father reported him to the head.

A year later, Mr Cunningham moved to Willingdon Community School in Eastbourne on a one-year secondment from Garforth. But after just four weeks in his new role as a cover supervisor, school leaders launched disciplinary proceedings following allegations he had "behaved inappropriately" towards nine female Year 10 and 11 pupils.

As a result, Mr Cunningham was dismissed for gross misconduct. Not long afterwards, Garforth inquired about the possibility of him returning early from his secondment. Instead of informing the school's head, Sir Paul Edwards, that he had been dismissed, he simply returned to his old job.

The GTC conduct committee found Mr Cunningham guilty of misleading the school and of failing to give correct details for a CRB check. In addition it found he had behaved inappropriately with the first child at Garforth, but cleared him of the allegations at Willingdon.

Mr Cunningham, who apologised at the hearing for his actions, has been suspended from teaching for six months. He must complete a course in "child protection awareness" to learn how to "maintain professional boundaries".

He admitted touching a Year 10 pupil at Garforth, but said that he put his hands on her sides to move her out of the way. He also admitted placing his hand on the back of one Willingdon pupil and gently pushing her. The GTC found the touching was "unnecessary" and "inappropriate" but could not find evidence it was sexually motivated.

Mr Cunningham told the GTC panel the incidents occurred at a "difficult" time in his personal life when he was under "mental stress".

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