March 2014

Headteacher, 36, groomed 15-year-old pupil after taking her on trips to the seaside and hotels

A headteacher who groomed a 15-year-old pupil who he later got pregnant has been banned from teaching for life.

Philip Barnwell, 36, plied the girl – known only as Pupil A – with alcoholic drinks, took her to the seaside, and let her share his bed, a professional conduct panel was told.

The contact continued after the girl left the school and she fell pregnant with the teacher’s baby at 17, the hearing heard.

An investigation in to the contact was halted after Mr Barnwell was sacked from the school in 2008 as the girl refused to be interviewed and Mr Barnwell did not comment.

However, details of the contact resurfaced when Mr Barnwell applied for another job in teaching and he was ordered to face a professional conduct hearing.

The panel ruled while Mr Barnwell was employed at Woodside High School in Wood Green, north London, between 2007 and 2008, he had an inappropriate relationship with the Year 11 student.

This amounted to unacceptable professional conduct, it said.

Mr Barnwell insists he is innocent and denies he had an inappropriate relationship with the girl.

However, Alan Meyrick, deputy director for teacher regulation at the Department for Education, banned him from the profession for good.

He said: ‘Mr Barnwell abused the position of trust that he held and he engaged in sexual activity with Pupil A.

‘This is very serious misconduct. I am satisfied that Mr Barnwell’s actions were both deliberate and, at times, carefully planned.’

Mrs Mary Speakman, who chaired the hearing, said: ‘The relationship is said to have involved the teacher frequently spending time alone with Pupil A in school time, communications by text and MSN between them, pre-arranged meetings outside school and overnight stays.’

The panel also heard how the girl stayed at the head teacher’s home and shared his bed, while on another occasion they spent two nights together in the Royal York Hotel in Brighton during term-time.

After she left the school in September 2008, they ‘appeared very close’ when spotted in a park together, the hearing was told.

Later that month, Mr Barnwell took her to a hotel for the night and the next day the pair had to go to a clinic as the girl needed the morning-after pill.

Mr Barnwell was suspended from his post in July 2008 while the police and the school held investigations into his conduct.

By this time, the pupil had just finished her GCSEs. He was eventually dismissed.

Mrs Speakman told the hearing: ‘Our factual findings, taken together, provide an abundance of evidence to establish that Mr Barnwell had a relationship with Pupil A, one of his school pupils, which was totally inappropriate and involved sexual activity.”

The panel, run by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, heard the girl – described as ‘bright and hard working’ – came from a broken home. She had little contact with her natural mother and none with her father.

Mrs Speakman added: ‘Parents and others must be able to entrust children, particularly those who are vulnerable because of family or other circumstances, to the care of teachers, confident that teachers will observe professional boundaries towards those whom they teach.

‘We conclude that the evidence in the case demonstrates conclusively that Mr Barnwell’s conduct renders him incompatible with remaining as a member of the profession and that a prohibition order should be imposed.’