Professional conduct panel bans former St Albans teacher after 'inappropriate' platonic relationship with pupil

PUBLISHED: 10:43 16 April 2019 | UPDATED: 20:44 20 April 2019

Dr Stephen Jones used to teach at St Columba's College.

Dr Stephen Jones used to teach at St Columba's College.

picture supplied

A former St Albans teacher who had an inappropriate relationship with a pupil has been barred from the profession.

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”.

A Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel was presented with the case, witnesses and evidence to decide if Dr Jones should be barred at a hearing from March 18 to 26 at the Coventry University Technology Park.

The former teacher was not present or represented at the hearing.

It heard that Dr Jones was excessively involved with being 15-year-old A's confirmation sponsor, would text and call the youngster from a personal phone, gave him regular lifts, and took him on cinema trips without parental consent.

He gifted the teens expensive presents, such as books, an army knife, and a Garmin Fenix 2 GPS watch - currently retailing at over £300.

Dr Jones also arranged for A to receive private counselling sessions on St Columba's premises and travelled on holiday with A's whole family without notifying the school.

They travelled to Italy and Canada in 2014 and to Ireland in 2015.

He also took all three pupils on a holiday to the New Forest, letting their parents falsely believe it was a St Columba's trip with other adults present.

The TRA panel found that Dr Jones bought the underage teenagers alcohol and stayed in at least one hotel room alone with Pupil A - however, it ruled that there was no evidence of sexual motivations.

It also notes that Dr Jones fostered intolerance in the pupils who were involved in a religious group, ruling Dr Jones had displayed “flagrant disregard” for St Columba's policy and brought the teaching profession into disrepute.

Following the TRA panel's recommendation, a decision maker on behalf of the Secretary of State has issued Dr Jones an indefinite prohibition order.

Decision maker Alan Meyrick said there was a “lack of insight or remorse” amounting to a “failure of professional integrity”.

At a Watford Tribunal in 2016, in which Dr Jones had his claim for wrongful dismissal refused, the teacher argued Pupil A said his mother had inflicted red marks on his neck.

Dr Jones said when he informed A's mother of his decision to involve social services or the police, she visited his house and used threatening language.

He said A's mother phoned headteacher David Buxton to report the teacher and pupil friendship two days later.

A statement released by the barrister representing Pupil A's parents reads: “Stephen Jones used the cover of a small theology group on school premises, whose existence was not officially recognised by St Columba's College, to befriend, indoctrinate and radicalise Pupils A, B and C into extreme views on Catholicism, actively encouraging disrespect and disdain towards other faiths.

“Under the pretext of being Pupil A's Catholic confirmation sponsor, Dr Jones progressively infiltrated and entwined himself into the life of Pupil A and his family, flagrantly disregarding professional teaching boundaries, to the point that he acted as a third parent, progressively marginalising the actual parents from their 15-year-old son during his GCSE year.”

He said since 2015, when Dr Jones was dismissed, A has been estranged from his parents.

Adding: “Unsuspecting and unaware of the sinister undercurrent, until the teacher's degree of coercive control over their son prevailed over their own parent-child relationship, the parents blame themselves for not realizing the extent to which they were groomed and duped by the teacher.

“Having befriended the family to choking point, he stole their son from them whilst cloaked in teacher respectability.

“Heart-broken, their most fervent and heartfelt wish is to somehow re-establish contact and their relationship with their beloved son.”

Dr Jones has 28 days to appeal the TRA's decision.

A spokesperson from St Columba's said it welcomed the outcome: “It is important to stress, however, that this was an isolated case and the individual concerned was dismissed as soon as it became clear that the high standards that we expect and demand were not adhered to.”

He said they are pleased the latest ISI report recognises welfare, health and safety support offered to students.

View the TRA report at www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-misconduct-panel-outcome-dr-stephen-jones

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