Former Eastbourne teacher who had sexual relationship with ex-pupil can carry on teaching

John Tomsett leaving the Teaching Regulation Agency in Coventry. Photo SWNS SUS-181211-154310001
John Tomsett leaving the Teaching Regulation Agency in Coventry. Photo SWNS SUS-181211-154310001

A teacher who had a sexual relationship with a former girl pupil at Eastbourne Sixth Form College 26 years ago has been spared being struck off.

John Tomsett was accused at a teachers’ disciplinary hearing in Coventry of failing to maintain professional boundaries by engaging in an inappropriate relationship with the girl in the summer that she received her A level results.

However, the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel cleared him of that allegation which was based on a number of specific allegations which they ruled had not been proved to the necessary level.

But they found that an allegation, which he had admitted, of engaging in a sexual relationship with the girl proved.

However, they recommended that Mr Tomsett, who went on to later become a head teacher at another school should not, as happens to many teachers who are subject to TRA disciplinary proceedings where the allegations are found proved, be banned from the country’s classrooms.

No details of the depth of the relationship between Mr Tomsett and the girl were given in the panel’s findings.

In their findings the panel say they consider his standards ‘fell short of the standards expected of the profession at the time, particularly the failure to maintain proper professional boundaries with Pupil A’.

But in pulling back from recommending that he should be struck off they say they took into account that the allegations involved matters 26 years ago at a time after both he and the girl had left the college.

They add that they had received evidence in support of Mr Tomsett’s good character in the form of testimonials from past and present pupils, parents, colleagues and senior educational professionals.

“The testimonials demonstrate that Mr Tomsett is seen as a caring, empathetic, dedicated and driven teacher and leader and demonstrate his value to the educational establishment,” say the findings.

They also say that Ofsted last year found for the first time in its history that the school where he is now head teacher was outstanding in every category and that this year it had achieved the best A Level results ever recorded for it.

They said that given the circumstances of the case they did not consider applying the standard of the ordinary intelligent citizen that banning him would be proportionate or appropriate and took the view that publication of their findings would be sufficient.

Agreeing with their recommendation on behalf of Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, TRA decision maker, Alan Meyrick said the panel had been clear in its findings that it was not professionally acceptable for a teacher to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with their former pupil shortly after that pupil had left the school or college.

However, he said that the testimonials on behalf of Mr Tomsett showed him as a ‘caring, empathetic, dedicated and driven teacher and leader’ and demonstrated his value to the educational establishment.

“A prohibition order would prevent Mr Thomsett from teaching and would also clearly deprive the public of his contribution to the profession for the period that it is in force,” he said.

He said he had given considerable weight in his consideration of sanction, to the contribution that Mr Tomsett has made to the profession and that he had concluded that not banning him was proportionate and in the public interest.