Norwich teacher banned from classroom for “unacceptable” conduct

Thorpe St Andrew School. Photo: Angela Sharpe.

Thorpe St Andrew School. Photo: Angela Sharpe.

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A former science teacher at Thorpe St Andrew High School who formed an “inappropriate relationship” with a 15-year-old pupil has been banned from the classroom.

The Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove issued a Prohibition Order banning Joseph Owen from the profession, on the recommendation of a Teaching Agency disciplinary panel.

The decision means that Owen is prohibited from teaching in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

The panel found that between April and June 2008 Owen “formed an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old female pupil, Pupil A”.

It said that he sent text messages to her from his mobile phone, communicated with her via Facebook, kept pictures of her on his computer and allowed himself to be alone with her on a one-to-one basis.

Mr Owen admitted the allegations, but denied that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

However, the panel findings say Mr Owen’s conduct was “wholly unacceptable” and that he “stepped across the line”.

They say that Owen, who was dismissed by the school for gross misconduct in January 2009, stated during a police interview that he found Pupil A “sexually intriguing” and that his computer’s hard drive was found to have a folder called “Pupil A” which contained seven images of the girl.

The findings conclude: “We are satisfied that the conduct of Mr Owen in relation to the facts that we have found proved involved a breach of the Teacher’s Standards and that his conduct fell seriously short of the standards of behaviour expected of the profession. Accordingly we are satisfied that Mr Owen is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.”

Teaching Agency deputy director Alan Meyrick said: “Abuse of trust is a serious matter, and it is in the public interest for that to be recognised. Nonetheless, the panel’s advice is that because this teacher was relatively inexperienced and that this was not part of an established pattern of unacceptable behaviour a review period should be allowed.”

Owen can apply to be restored to the teaching register after four years, and can appeal to the High Court.

Ian Clayton, Principal at Thorpe St Andrew High School, said: “Once alerted, our rigorous procedures came into play and Mr Owen was immediately suspended. Our procedures were praised at the time by the local authority and the police, who took no action after their initial investigation.

“The governors of the school acted firmly and decisively, in that after a hearing, Mr Owen was dismissed.”

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