Teachers on Gibraltar have expressed outrage at a lack of action by education authorities to properly investigate reports that a teacher was grooming a 16-year-old student who she went on to have a lesbian relationship with.
The Teachers’ Union Gibraltar NASUWT said it was “shocked over the failure by the Department of Education to ensure that safeguarding standards were applied accordingly”.
Fellow teachers had repeatedly reported their suspicions that the supply teacher in her late 20s was carrying out “inappropriate conduct” with a 16-year-old student at the all-girl Westside School in 2019.
The issue was taken seriously by senior management team at Westside School who reported it to the Department of Education.
However, the teacher was not reported to police and instead she was offered another teaching contract at a junior school..
“We want to know why it wasn’t reported to the police at the time and a proper investigation carried out,” Charlie Bishop, president of the NASUWT, told The Olive Press.
“At the time fellow teachers had suspicions and carried out the correct safeguarding measures by reporting it to higher authorities, but the whole issue was quietly covered up.”
Earlier this month, the Gibraltar government released a statement with the conclusions of an independent investigation into the teacher which found a clear case of “grooming” had occurred.
An “exhaustive” review of the case was undertaken by an independent board chaired by Gillian Guzman QC which concluded that, during 2019 and 2020, a teacher abused the teacher-student relationship, giving way to her own “inappropriate feelings” and ignoring the student’s wellbeing.
The report says the teacher broke safeguarding protocols, codes of conduct and child protection policies – as well as her own position of trust.
“The teacher‘s approach to the student was purposeful and in giving way to the teacher‘s own inappropriate feelings, the teacher ignored the well-being of a vulnerable student and groomed the student accordingly,” said a statement from Number Six.
“The report adds that in doing so the teacher broke safeguarding protocols, codes of conduct, child protection policies and the teacher‘s position of trust. The teacher‘s conduct was regarded as significantly disturbing, wholly unprofessional and brought the teaching profession into disrepute.”
The Olive Press has learnt that the investigation was commissioned by the government following considerable pressure from the parents of the student who feel the relationship could have been stopped if appropriate action was taken at the time.
Instead, the daughter who is now 18, no longer speaks to her parents and has moved in with her former teacher with whom she has a relationship.
Number Six says the teacher will no longer be allowed to teach in any of Gibraltar’s schools and that it will conduct an urgent review of safeguarding protocols on the Rock.
“Therefore, in line with the recommendations of the Board, HM Government of Gibraltar has now prevented the teacher from teaching in its schools. It will also ensure that appropriate safeguarding controls are put in place to ensure this person does not work with children in other capacities.”
It added: “Failures in the existing procedures and policies at the Department of Education are also being investigated.”
A fellow teacher at Westfield School said the whole handling of the case was a scandal. “How are we supposed to have confidence in the authorities when they covered it up?” the teacher told The Olive Press but asked not to named. “There’s a feeling that it would have been taken more seriously if it was a male teacher behaving that way with a female student.”
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