Note: All teachers listed below were suspended or sacked immediately. None of the below are in any way connected to the school now
How FIVE teachers at ONE school all seduced pupils
Christopher Reen makes quite a show of being a doting husband and father these days.
Only a fortnight ago, he arranged a surprise weekend away for his ‘beautiful, amazing wife’ Rachel, the mother of his baby daughter.
Over a romantic dinner, he presented her with an eternity ring, a symbol of his everlasting love.
No doubt he has elaborate plans for Valentine’s Day, too. After all, it’s unlikely he’ll be free to celebrate with her next year.
Last week, Reen admitted to an affair and six counts of sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl in his charge.
Incredibly, he is the fifth member of staff at Headlands School in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, to face criminal charges over a sexual relationship with a pupil.
The former classroom assistant, who had been married for less than two months and was about to become a father when he set about seducing his schoolgirl lover in the summer of 2008, will return to court next month for what the judge has promised will be a ‘substantial’ sentence.
Until then, he will continue to play happy families in the terrace house he shares with his extraordinarily forgiving wife, in this little seaside town now better known for its school scandals than its golden sands.
But when he is jailed – like the roll call of disgraced Headlands teachers before him – one wonders what comfort that ring will bring to a wife who is doing her best to forget that her wedding band seemed to mean nothing.
Reen may have pleaded guilty to all charges, but many unanswered questions remain. Quite why his wife has remained so loyal in the face of his sickening betrayal is the least of them.
The mother of his victim – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – wants to know why he unexpectedly changed his plea at the beginning of his retrial, having put up a determined and (according to prosecutors) ‘very dirty’ defence when the case was first heard last September.
Steven Edwards, top, was jailed in 2007 for four years for having three affairs with school girls while Christopher Reen, bottom, will be sentenced next month for seducing his schoolgirl lover in 2008
While he did not deny that he and the girl had a full sexual relationship which lasted several months, he attempted to convince the jury he had not known she was underage, despite the fact that he had supervised her in a Year 10 class.
teacher-pupil sex scandal?
As Chris Keates, the general secretary of teaching union NASUWT pointed out when Reen’s case came to light last year: ‘It is extremely rare for teachers to actually cross that boundary. We get around 800 allegations a year against members.
‘A small number, maybe half a dozen, are about inappropriate sexual conduct with a pupil. Even fewer go to court and not all those end in a conviction. It is a tiny number of teachers – so to have such a concentration in one school makes that an extraordinary situation.’
When Reen, then 30, took up his post as a teaching assistant at Headlands in June 2008, it was almost inconceivable that another member of staff might end up in the dock over yet another ‘inappropriate relationship’.
The sorry fact is that Reen was filling the vacancy left by married teaching assistant Lindsey Jane Collett, 26, who was at that time facing magistrates over her relationship with a 16-year-old boy at the school.
And it is a certainty that when she joined Headlands, Collett was given the same lecture as Reen during her one-on-one induction regarding the school’s newly tightened rules on fraternisation between its staff and its pupils – including a ban on exchanging personal phone numbers – which were imposed in the wake of three earlier scandals.
Terry Mann, top, received a 12 month suspended sentence after admitting an affair with a 15-year-old girl and Ian Blott was jailed for four years for his affair with a student, also aged 15
These words of warning from the school’s deputy headteacher were undoubtedly heard, but not heeded. Indeed, at the height of Reen’s affair with the schoolgirl, she claimed he laughed about the fact he was flouting the school’s rules so flagrantly within weeks of walking through the gates.
‘Here was a school that was doing all it could to protect itself from further scandal,’ the prosecuting barrister Helen Hendry told the court. ‘And here he was laughing at their attempt to protect children.’
When 54-year-old art teacher and father-of-two Ian Blott was jailed for four years in 2006, for his two-year affair with a 15-year-old pupil, the spotlight was turned on what transpired to be a culture of inappropriate contact between staff and pupils that had been allowed to develop over several years.
On more than one occasion, the school had turned a blind eye to rumours of teacher-pupil affairs.
Six months after Blott’s trial, the yet more unsavoury tale of Bible-bashing biker Steven Edwards, the school’s IT teacher, emerged. He received a sentence of four years and nine months when convicted of having sexual relations with three girls aged between 14 and 16.
Year after year, it seemed, he had taken his pick of under-aged pupils, preying on vulnerable girls from unstable homes. He contacted them via MSN online messenger, and the internal email system he had created, and seduced them, telling them they were pretty, they had nice eyes, and that they looked good in short skirts.
When one of his victims texted at the end of their affair, asking him whether he was seeing other girls, he replied: ‘You don’t want to know how many there have been.’
Like Reen, both Edwards and Blott were married to women who, for reasons unfathomable, decided to stand by their men. Perhaps too ashamed about their husbands’ crimes, they all declined to speak to the Mail this week.
At the school and in council offices, there was hope that the convictions of these two men would draw a line under a lengthy police inquiry in which officers investigated allegations spanning 13 years and implicating no fewer than 11 members of staff.
Five teachers from Headlands School and Community Science College have been taken to court over illicit affairs
But the scandal involving 45-year-old IT teacher Terry Mann was just around the corner. Having left Headlands and moved to nearby Withernsea School, in 2008 he was convicted of having sex with an underage pupil there and given a 12-month suspended sentence.
Soon after, a damning report concluded that Headlands had failed to protect its pupils. But it was accompanied by reassuring proclamations of lessons well and truly learned.
‘We are in a different world now,’ soothed Alison Waller, the local council’s director of children’s services. But two years and two scandals later, the world looks worryingly similar to parents of Headlands School pupils.
So how did the school allow the most recent scandal to unfold?
At first glance, Christopher Reen looked like an ideal candidate for the classroom assistant’s position. As the owner of a martial arts club, he was full of confidence and had experience of teaching children of all ages.
He claims he was forced into looking for a second job because, earlier in the year, his business was investigated by Trading Standards, damaging its reputation and resulting in a drop in membership and income.
In May, he married his pregnant girlfriend – who has another child from a previous relationship. He told the court that, with a wedding to pay for and a baby on the way, his financial worries mounted.
Working at the school provided him not only with a second income, but also the opportunity to drum up interest in his martial arts classes.
With the headmaster’s permission, he advertised kickboxing classes at school, and soon his gym was packed with students – including the 15-year-old girl who would soon become his lover. Reen at first denied meeting the girl in the classroom.
He claimed their relationship did not begin until the summer holidays, ‘forgetting’ that he had supervised her in more than one Year 10 class.
In truth, two out of more than 800 texts submitted as evidence were sent by Reen to the girl during one of those classes. And although his phone was never recovered, hers revealed that he had sent her a stream of explicit messages, including intimate photographs.
Next he denied that he had knowingly had sex with a minor, even though he was aware that Year 10 pupils were aged 14 and 15.
Even when the girl’s mother told the court she had filled in a form giving her daughter’s date of birth when she enrolled in Reen’s martial arts course, still he claimed not to have known she was under 16.
But the girl remembers telling Reen in July that her 16th birthday was still months away, to which he responded: ‘I cannot wait that long.’
He did admit, however, that he had saved her mobile number to his phone and began to send her messages. In a cynical ruse to start a text conversation with her, he pretended that his first messages were sent in error and were meant for another girl by the same name.
But he soon dispensed with the pretence, as did she. It is easy to see how the attentions of a much older man could have turned her head. But there is no doubt that the fault lay with Reen.
Her interest in attending his kickboxing club waned and was overtaken by her interest in turning up after school hours dressed to the nines to impress Reen.
Her mother said: ‘She told me she was going out with friends. I asked her: “Are you sure that’s all you’re doing?” She said it was.’
The girl later admitted to lying to her mother. In reality, she was heading for Reen’s gym for what would become regular sex sessions. According to Reen, she would stay ‘for 10 to 15 minutes’, before he locked up and went home.
On two occasions when his wife was away, Reen took the girl to the marital home and had sex. The pair were pretty well acquainted, yet still he hoped the court would believe he did not know her age.
‘The first I knew of it was when she told me she was going out to a club to celebrate her 16th birthday. I was in complete and utter shock,’ he protested. He accused the girl of blackmailing him into continuing the relationship.
Yet he was not so ashamed about the affair, nor racked with guilt of his infidelity, that he could stop himself from flirting with her publicly. In a school already rocked by four teacher-pupil scandals, everyone was primed to spot the signs.
Rumours of an affair spread quickly among pupils and soon reached staff. The girl’s mother and the police were informed, and although the girl was reluctant to prosecute, he was damned by the evidence on her mobile phone.
Although last September the jury failed to reach a majority verdict on the issue of whether or not he had known the girl was underage, on the first day of his retrial – as his victim waited to give evidence against him – he admitted all counts: one of sexual activity with a child under 18 while in a position of trust, and six further counts of sexual activity with a child aged under 16.
Now, as Reen prepares to leave his family behind, another question emerges: if a predator like Reen can operate so freely in a school so intent on preventing abuse, how many more schools are yet to uncover scandals of their own?