Two-year ban for teacher who sent sexually suggestive messages to teenage pupil

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A PE teacher at Uppingham Community College who sent sexually suggestive messages to a teenage pupil, has been banned from the profession for at least two years.

Andrew Morton, 38, who taught at the school from 2004 to 2011, was found to have “engaged in an inappropriate relationship” with the teenager in 2007 and 2008. He was second in charge of the PE department at the time.

Mr Morton has been banned by Education Secretary Michael Gove after a Teaching Agency disciplinary panel found he was guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct”.

The disciplinary panel’s findings said: “In late 2007, Mr Morton began exchanging text messages with Student A. These text messages became more frequent and continued until July 2008, despite an informal warning in February 2008. A number of text messages which were exchanged contained content of a sexual nature.

“In June 2008, Student A told Mr Morton that she no longer wished to continue their relationship. They continued to exchange text messages until July 2008. Mr Morton stored photos of Student A on his computer and on his mobile phone.”

The findings say that when the text messages began initially they were “fun and humorous”, before becoming more “flirtatious”.

The panel says that around Christmas 2007, Morton told the girl he had begun to develop feelings for her and around May 2008 he told her he was in love with her.

At her request, he wrote a poem for her around Valentine’s Day 2008, entitled “Foxy Lady”.

In February 2008, the school investigated concerns Mr Morton was spending too much time with the girl. Mr Morton was given an informal warning and advised against being alone with or singling out any one pupil. During the investigation, he denied having communicated with the girl either by text or e-mail.

But he is said to have continued to exchange sexually suggestive and explicit text messages with her, saving her number under the name “Sweet Cheeks” on his phone.

The panel said that Mr Morton also prepared a report in respect of Student A, which he sent to her.

After she told him she no longer wished to continue their relationship. He texted her on July 21, 2008 to say: “What the **** have I done 2 make u this way? i just don’t get why ur so bitter! Its out of order when I tried 2b is understanding.”

Mr Morton had told the panel that, at the time, he was vulnerable as he had just come out of a relationship with a woman who had psychologically ground him down. He said when the relationship broke down he felt lost, vulnerable and depressed and that the relationship with the teenager developed when he was not strong enough to resist.

He claimed he “gave in” by responding to text messages and acknowledged that it was a mistake to store photographs of the girl on his mobile phone and home computer, some of which she had sent to him.

Mr Morton underwent heart surgery in January 2012 and said he suffered depression as a result so was unable to attend the school’s disciplinary hearing.

Recommending that he should be banned from teaching, the panel said Mr Morton’s conduct constituted an abuse of trust and was “fundamentally incompatible with being a teacher”.

However, it said that he was a teacher of previous good character who held a position of responsibility within his department and that he had carried on working for three years after the events in question until his suspension by the school in May 2011. As a result, it said he should be eligible to apply for the Prohibition Order to be set aside after two years.

The Secretary of State said: “Teachers hold positions of trust and Mr Morton has seriously abused that trust. His behaviour was deliberate and was a serious breach of the standards expected of a teacher. I support the recommendation that he be prohibited.

He added: “Mr Morton has shown some insight and has taken some steps to address his health issues. I therefore support the recommendation that a two year review period is in place.”

Mr Morton may not apply for the Prohibition Order to be set aside until March 2015 and if he does so will have to persuade a panel that he is fit to return to the classroom.

He has a right of appeal to the High Court.