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Teacher banned for life after engaging in sexual activity with ex-pupil at a boarding school in High Wycombe

| September 28, 2017

Wycombe Abbey. (Archive picture)

A former teacher at an independent girls boarding school in High Wycombe has been banned from teaching indefinitely for engaging in sexual activity with an ex-pupil on school premises.

Mr Matthew Stuart McGowan, aged 38, was employed as a Drama Teacher at Wycombe Abbey School in High Wycombe from Thursday 1st September 2011 until he resigned on Monday 12th September 2016.

A complaint was made by the mother of a girl on Friday 1st July 2016 which resulted in the School conducting an investigation into the relationship between Mr McGowan and the girl (known as ‘Pupil A’).

A professional conduct panel of the National College for Teaching and Leadership convened on Wednesday 30th and Thursday 31st August 2017 in Coventry to consider the case of Mr McGowan.

The professional conduct panel had received an email from the School dated Tuesday 29th August 2017 containing a request that the hearing should take place in private to ‘protect the interests of pupils at the School‘. However the panel decided that the hearing should take place in public.

Mr McGowan was not present at the hearing however arrangements were made for him to give evidence by video link from overseas.

The professional conduct panel heard that it was alleged that Mr McGowan was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute whilst employed by Wycombe Abbey School in that he (panel decision in bold) :

1. Developed an inappropriate relationship with Pupil A, whilst she was a pupil at the School by:

  • a. In or around 2013 writing ‘Happy Valentines’ Day from a secret admirer 😉‘ in Pupil A’s diary or words to that effect – Proved.
  • b. Giving Pupil A his personal email address on or around 28 October 2014 – Proved.
  • c. Sending Pupil A emails of an inappropriate nature on one or more occasions – Proved.
  • d. Giving Pupil A his private mobile phone number on or around 17 June 2015 – Proved.
  • e. During meetings and/or rehearsals with Pupil A he: i) Touched Pupil A’s bottom – Proved; ii) Stroked the insides of Pupil A’s thighs – Not proved on the balance of probabilities as there is insufficient evidence; iii) Hugged Pupil A – Proved.

2. Engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Pupil A after she left the School by engaging in sexual activity with her on School premises on one or more occasions; Proved.

3. Acted dishonestly and/or acted with a lack of integrity in that he asked Pupil A to give the police a false account of the nature of his relationship during the police investigation in 2016. Not proved.

Mr McGowan admitted the facts alleged in 1 (a), (b), (c) and (d) and signed a Statement of Agreed Facts to that effect.

Mr McGowan denied the facts alleged in 1 (e), 2. and 3. Mr McGowan accepted that the facts alleged in 1 (a), (b), (c) and (d) amount to unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.

Pupil A stated to the panel that their relationship became ‘very physical‘ she also stated that some of the sexual activity took place in the School, specifically in Mr McGowan’s office and that they also met up on other occasions such as in Mr McGowan’s car.

The panel was satisfied that the actions of Mr McGowan were deliberate and there is no evidence that he was acting under duress.

The Secretary of State for Education received the outcome and recommendations of the professional conduct panel and decided to prohibit Mr McGowan from teaching indefinitely meaning that he cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

Due to the seriousness of the allegations found proved against him the Secretary of State also decided that Mr McGowan should not be entitled to apply for restoration of his eligibility to teach.

Mr McGowan has the right of appeal to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court within 28 days from the date he was given notice of the order.

The full report of the professional conduct panel together with the decision of the Secretary of State can be read by clicking this link.

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