A TEACHER who kissed and held hands with a student at Wales High School has been cleared to carry on teaching.
Music teacher Felicity Simpson admitted she had formed “an inappropriate relationship” with a student, during which she allowed him to use her as a “footrest”, returned a kiss he gave her and bought alcoholic drinks for a group of students.
A National College for Teaching and Leadership panel, which published its findings on Monday, concluded that Miss Simpson’s behaviour was “extremely ill-judged, unprofessional and inappropriate” and she was guilty of serious misconduct.
But it stopped short of imposing a prohibition order banning her from teaching.
The panel said Miss Simpson, who was 22 when she started teaching at the school, admitted from the outset that she had developed or engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the boy known as Student A.
The teacher said she “adored” the student in question but not romantically or in a sexual way.
Panel chairman Dawn Dandy said: “She always denied that underlying that inappropriate relationship was an intention to form a sexual relationship.
“Having taken into consideration the relevant and supportive character evidence which had been produced, the panel was not prepared to find, on the balance of probabilities, that her conduct was sexually motivated.”
At a hearing in Coventry in December, Miss Simpson admitted briefly holding hands with the boy after a school show in December 2016 and returning a kiss on the lips.
“Momentarily, Miss Simpson returned his kiss but then pushed him away and immediately regretted what had happened,” said the panel report.
She also admitted buying alcoholic drinks for students, despite the fact that she did not know whether all of those students were over the age of 18, behaviour she conceded was “beyond stupid”.
While at school, she admitted, she had allowed Student A to put his legs over her while sitting in a communal area.
The panel heard Miss Simpson had bought the boy a gift, which was “was linked with Valentine's Day” but that it was common for her to buy students presents.
One student said it was not uncommon for the boy, who was well-regarded and “tactile” to use someone’s legs as a “footrest”.
Other allegations made against Miss Simpson were not found proved, including that she had stroked the boy’s leg, talked to another student about her feelings towards him and disclosed confidential information.
She admitted exchanging texts with the student but denied, and was cleared of, meeting him outside school.
The teacher also admitted ignoring warnings about her conduct from colleagues and continuing to send him texts.
The panel cleared her of any sexual conduct but concluded that she had failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.
Miss Simpson has moved on to a job with Doncaster Music Service, whose operations manager said she was “a born natural and outstanding teacher and would be an asset to any establishment”.
Ms Dandy concluded: “It was clear to the panel from oral and written evidence that Miss Simpson has a high degree of insight into her misconduct and is deeply remorseful.
“Whilst recognising that the behaviours shown by Miss Simpson are serious I am of the view in light of the significant insight and remorse shown, along with the contribution Miss Simpson has made to the teaching profession that a prohibition order is not proportionate and in the public interest in order to achieve the aims which a prohibition order is intended to achieve.”