Worthing school teacher banned from teaching for buying pupil cigarettes

A school teacher from Worthing has been banned from teaching for buying a pupil cigarettes.

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 1:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 1:56 pm

James Parkhouse, 26, was prohibited from teaching indefinitely by the Teacher Regulatory Agency on February 6 in relation to incidents involving a female student at Bohunt School in Broadwater Road, Worthing.

According to a report of the professional conduct panel's decision, Mr Parkhouse had been employed at Bohunt School as a newly qualified maths teacher since September 1, 2017.

In August 2018, he began contacting Pupil A via a personal Instagram account, including messages that were 'personal in nature', the report said.

Bohunt School, Worthing

According to the report, Mr Parkhouse made comments about 'liking Pupil A and caring about her' and made reference to being under the influence of alcohol while messaging.

On one occasion, he also referred to a conversation from the classroom about the colour of Pupil A’s underwear, which Mr Parkhouse claimed Pupil A had initiated. In another message exchange, Mr Parkhouse asked Pupil A not to tell anyone about the communication.

Around September 2018, the report said he bought cigarettes for Pupil A, met with her at the beach and gave them to her.

On October 1, Pupil A and another female pupil, Pupil B, reported what had happened to the school and the teacher was suspended pending an investigation the same day, the report said.

Bohunt conducted an internal disciplinary investigation, and on October 30, 2018, Mr Parkhouse was dismissed without notice.

The report said Mr Parkhouse had been previously warned about overstepping professional boundaries in early 2018.

The Teacher Regulatory Agency professional conduct panel found that this behaviour 'amounted to unacceptable professional conduct'.

Pupil A also reported that Mr Parkhouse had touched her lower back in a classroom, and Pupil B alleged he had touched her back at an open evening and had touched her hand in a classroom setting.

These allegations and whether they amounted to 'inappropriate physical contact' could not be proven and were dismissed by the panel.

The panel recommended to not ban Mr Parkhouse from teaching and that publishing the findings of the panel would be enough of a punishment, adding that he had a previously good history, as attested by the headteacher of Bohunt, and cooperated with proceedings from the outset.

The panel found he had 'significant insight into the consequences of his behaviour on both himself and the two pupils' and was 'genuinely remorseful'. The panel believed he 'did not pose an ongoing risk to pupils or the public'.

However, Alan Meyrick, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, went against this recommendation.

In his concluding statements, he said: "In my judgement the panel has given greater weight to the insight and remorse shown [by Mr Parkhouse] but has failed to give sufficient weight to the inappropriate, over-familiar and personal in nature messages.

"In my judgement, Mr Parkhouse’s behaviour will have an adverse impact on the reputation of the profession if it is not dealt with through a prohibition order."

Mr Parkhouse can apply for the teaching ban to be dropped in 2022.

In response to the decision, a spokesman for Bohunt School said: "The safety and wellbeing of all our students is our number one priority, and we are clear that the actions of this individual were unacceptable and opposed to the high standards we uphold.

“We have robust safeguarding procedures in place across the school to protect our students. As soon as we became aware of the situation, we took immediate action to suspend the member of staff, who was shortly after dismissed following an internal investigation.

"We have since been working closely with the relevant authorities and to provide the appropriate support to those involved, and we fully support the Teacher Regulatory Agency outcome."