Ex-pupils raise £4,000 for disgraced teacher after banning order

St Columba's College. Picture: Google Maps

St Columba's College. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

Pupils of a former St Albans teacher, who was barred for an “inappropriate” pupil friendship, have raised £4,000 to support his legal appeal.

Dr Stephen Jones was first employed in the early 2000s as an RE teacher at St Columba’s College and by 2013 he was assistant deputy headmaster (pastoral) and part of the senior leadership team.

However, in 2015 complaints arose against Dr Jones and he was dismissed without paid notice.

The problems came from his relationship with three anonymous pupils – coined A, B and C – which the school found to be platonic but “inappropriate”.

He was barred from the profession after a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel in March.

A fundraising page has now been set up by former pupils at the school to help with Dr Stephen Jones’ legal fees, which include hiring a specialist to evaluate the case and fight against the decision.

It is initially looking to collect £5,000, with a further £10,000 needed if the case was taken to the High Court.

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Pupils who set up the page, but wish to remain anonymous, said: “We are a group of former students taught by Stephen Jones at the college.

“Due to the procedures of the TRA and evidence that has not yet been made public, we believe there are strong grounds for appeal. As the support we’ve already received shows, so does a substantial portion of the local community.”

Highlighting that a pupil involved testified on Dr Jones’ behalf, the page describes the barred teacher as an “amazing” man, who “helped students find work after leaving the school, counselled students, assisted families in need, took students on amazing trips and retreats, and was always there for anyone who needed help”.

The page reads: “The allegations against Steve were neither criminal nor ultimately all that serious in life’s rich pattern, and yet he has been treated incredibly harshly – primarily because he could not afford to defend himself properly.

“Those of us who are well aware of the details of the case believe very strongly that the case against Steve is grossly unjust.

“This four-year nightmare has taken a terrible financial and mental toll on Steve, his family, and his friends who have been a support and help for him.”

The fundraiser must raise the cash within 28 days if Dr Jones is to make an appeal.

However, a charity which aims to prevent child abuse has spoken out against the fundraiser.

Director and chief executive of Freedom from Abuse, Marilyn Hawes, said people become “brainwashed” in this scenario: “I have heard it all before, I have heard it in every single case across the county.

“There are teachers, parents, and a small minority of staff who will be their support group because they cannot see what has happened. What they do is groom people, who become entrenched in their belief system that this person is wonderful.

“As far as I am concerned it is a classic case – why else would you buy a child gifts? It is completely inappropriate.

“[The ruling] is a great achievement because the TRA would not make that order lightly - they are there to protect the teacher as well.”

She advised any parents and teachers who are worried about a person’s behaviour to trust their gut, talk about what they have seen, record any suspicions they have, and acknowledge that child abuse is “rife” in Hertfordshire.

A spokesman from St Columba’s College said: “The duty of the college is to safeguard the welfare of the students in its care and to uphold the professional standards of the teaching profession.

“While we respect this individual’s rights to appeal against the TRA’s findings, we also acknowledge that two external reviews have found that there have been issues with this individual’s conduct.

“Any appeal is now between the TRA and the individual, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

A statement released by the barrister representing Pupil A’s parents says: “The parents of Pupil A are not alone. Other parents also gave compelling evidence of Dr Jones’ insidious hold on their children. He repeatedly took impressionable boys on unauthorised school trips without their parents consent or knowledge.

“He showered them with gifts and stayed with them in hotels. He controlled their thoughts and behaviour.

“Dr Jones continues to be a menace to every child. That is why he was banned from teaching for life by the Secretary of State.”

He said Pupil A’s parents want their son to know that they miss him and just want him back. He has been estranged from them since Dr Jones was dismissed.

The fundraising page can be viewed at www.crowdjustice.com/case/help-a-good-man

The TRA report can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-misconduct-panel-outcome-dr-stephen-jones

Find out more about Freedom from Abuse at www.freedom-abuse.org