January 2018

Heathfield Community School teacher banned from the classroom for life

THE career of a teacher who ignored several warnings about his inappropriate behaviour with girl students over four decades lies in tatters.

Simon Pickhaver, who was sacked by Heathfield Community School after “inappropriate communication” with three teenagers, has now been banned for life from working in the classroom.

Pickhaver, 59, a head of year, exchanged e-mail messages with Pupils A and B and accompanied them once or more out of school and in his home, a professional conduct hearing was told.

Among email messages he sent Pupil A in summer 2016, he wrote: “Why am I so excited about seeing YOU again on Friday?”

On another occasion he e-mailed her to say he felt something for her of “a physical nature”, later adding: “I love you as much as I ever have.”

During the National College for Teaching and Leadership hearing, it emerged that Pickhaver, a married father, had been suspended by another school in the 1980s for “an inappropriate relationship” with a 15-year-old girl that was “intimate”.

Even after he returned to teaching, there were “further instances of inappropriate communications with pupils which led to censure by his employer”.

Pickhaver, who was employed at Heathfield from April 2002, was suspended in August 2016 and sacked in January last year.

During his time there, he promised not to e-mail students again after he was given “guidance” from the head teacher in 2006 over “inappropriate communications with Pupil C” after she had left.

He also received advice in relation to inappropriate communications on three separate occasions between 2006 and 2009.

Pickhaver’s latest disregard for teacher protocol came to light when Pupil A made a “disclosure” about his e-mailing her mainly about non-school business and seeing her outside school.

A report of the hearing said the behaviour of Pickhaver, who accepted he should not have acted as he did and who has apologised for “any distress or hurt”, “went far beyond what was appropriate as regards communications between a teacher and pupil”.

It added that his misconduct was deliberate, sustained, serious and unprofessional, fell “significantly short” of the standards expected of teachers and was likely to “bring the profession into disrepute”.

The report said: “The panel had no confidence in Mr Pickhaver’s ability to moderate his behaviour in future.

“There is accordingly a continuing risk to pupils and to the reputation of the profession were he to return to teaching.”

Pickhaver, who has suffered ill health in recent months, wrote to the hearing saying he has no intention of returning to teaching.

After the behind-closed-doors hearing, which Pickhaver did not attend, Dawn Dandy, of the Department for Education, said: “Simon Pickhaver is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

“Furthermor, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against him, I have decided that Mr Pickhaver shall not be entitled to apply for restoration of his eligibility to teach.”