Headteacher accused of having affair with pupil at an Eastbourne college

John Tomsett leaving  the Teaching Regulation Agency in Coventry. Photo SWNS
John Tomsett leaving the Teaching Regulation Agency in Coventry. Photo SWNS

A married headteacher had an affair with a female pupil and kissed her in his classroom, a tribunal has heard.

John Tomsett, 54, is accused of gross misconduct after the woman told how he seduced her when she was 18. Mr Tomsett admits an affair, but says it did not start while the female was still at school.

A Teaching Agency tribunal heard Tomsett struck up a sexual relationship with the woman, now in her 40s, when he taught her A-Level English in 1990.

During their fling, the woman, referred to as Pupil A, told how Tomsett kissed her in his classroom at Eastbourne Sixth Form College on his last day in the job, the tribunal was told.

Giving evidence at the hearing in Coventry, she said, “He pulled me towards him and I thought it was like a line from a play or a novel.

“It was like my English literature classes were coming to life. He looked at me with so much emotion and expression and there were tears in his eyes and I really felt he wanted to say ‘I love you’.

“We kissed, with him sitting on the desk and me standing between his legs. It felt exciting and shocking all at the same time. In my diary at the time I said he was not abusing his position only his wedding vows.”

After he left the college in the summer of 1992 the pair continued their affair, the tribunal heard.

Breaking down in tears, she added, “It’s really hard to carry on an adult life when I feel the guilt of that moment – that kiss in the classroom and not being able to talk about it with anyone. Who could I tell?

“Mr Tomsett was very intense, he had a wonderful way with words and was quite beguiling – when I was going to go to America for a gap year he said he did not want me to go.

“It was something that made me feel validated. John was so comforting and made me feel wanted, it is really hard to put into words how someone can make you feel.”

The panel heard Tomsett also picked her up in his car and they would go for walks at local beauty spots where they were intimate.

Pupil A said, “On one occasion we had a walk in a forest at the weekend where we became intimate....I felt very vulnerable.

“On another occasion we went to Beachy Head when I saw one of his colleagues from the school come towards us, he just left and sped off in the opposite direction, I felt awful.

“He told me he wanted to make love to me and he told me that a colleague at work said he would leave the door on the latch for him so he ‘could make love to you all day’ - I felt uncomfortable when I thought that another colleague knew about us.”

Andrew Faux, defending, said, “It was clear that there was a relationship between Mr Tomsett and someone who had been a pupil at the school and that relationship continued for some time.”

Addressing Pupil A, Mr Faux said, “You had developed a crush on him. The relationship took place after he stopped teaching at the school and was very much between people who were equals and there was nothing inappropriate towards the pupil in school.

“You [Pupil A] met in 2011 and had sexual intercourse on two occasions once in Yorkshire in June then in November in Sussex and you had contact with him on a number of occasions, once in 2004 in Pickering, Yorks... where he showed you around the school.”

Mr Faux said the woman had written a letter to herself which she opened on her 40th birthday which described a ‘summer of wonderful romance and passion’.

Mr Faux told her, “You put yourself forward as a confident young woman seeking an illicit affair.”

She replied, “It felt like an unstoppable train. I tried to stop it by ending the relationship in the August.”

Tomsett admits engaging in a sexual relationship with a former pupil but denies this amounted to professional misconduct.

He also denies an allegation of failing to maintain professional boundaries by engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a pupil.

Tomsett is a founding member of the influential Headteacher’s Roundtable, and is currently headteacher of Huntington School in York.

The hearing continues.

Story by Richard McAllister, of SWNS.