Former Tanbridge teacher struck off for inappropriate behaviour with boys

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A FORMER Tanbridge House School teacher has been struck off for behaving inappropriately towards pupils.

Darren Gandley, who worked at the Horsham school from 2004 to 2006, breached staff guidance by arranging to meet a year 11 male pupil for a meal and provided false information to a colleague who witnessed him at the restaurant, a General Teaching Council hearing ruled.

It was heard the teacher, who claimed to be helping students experiencing difficulties with their sexuality, worked at Reading School in Reading between 1998 and 2003 where he met a male pupil outside school premises to discuss his personal circumstances and they drank alcohol and smoked.

He invited the pupil to his bedroom on school premises, took the pupil out for a meal, allowed the pupil to sleep in his bed with him, made inappropriate comments and offered to perform a sexual act on him.

Another pupil watched films and smoked with them.

Allegations that he ‘communicated inappropriately’ with a Tanbridge pupil via email and MSN Messenger online were found not proven.

“It is particularly concerning that he has had several opportunities to reflect on his failings but nevertheless did not correct his behaviour,” said council chair Clare Craig.

“In particular he started work at Tanbridge House School under the express condition that he would maintain a proper relationship with pupils but failed to do so and compounded matters by seeking to cover up the circumstances of his meeting with a pupil.”

Tanbridge School guidance stated a teacher should not ‘seek to establish’ social contact and in his appointment letter Mr Gandley had, ‘somewhat unusually’, specifically been required to agree to a condition that he ‘maintain a professional distance with students both within and outside school’.

Clare Craig said: “Taken individually some of the allegations might not in themselves have constituted unacceptable professional conduct.

“Cumulatively they were a course of conduct that was unacceptable and showed a repeated disregard for maintaining the proper boundaries between a teacher and pupils.

“This was particularly so given the vulnerability of the pupils involved who were seeking to come to terms with their sexuality and the issues arising from that.

“It is clear that those allegations that relate to Pupil A’s overnight stay in Mr Gandley’s bedroom were completely unacceptable in themselves.

“Further, that the allegations arise in the context of repeated warnings about Mr Gandley’s behaviour and over the course of two teaching posts show a complete disregard for maintaining an acceptable standard of behaviour.

“We have found a multiplicity of failings on the part of Mr Gandley, some of which constituted a gross breach of his position of trust.

“These took place over a considerable period of time and despite Mr Gandley receiving repeated warnings and guidance about his behaviour.

“In response to each incident Mr Gandley showed a lack of insight into their seriousness which is further demonstrated by his failure to learn from his past behaviour and his unwillingness or inability to change his behaviour in relation to staff-student interaction.

“This is reflected in his lack of engagement with these proceedings and his failure to make any expression of remorse or provide any references that we might consider.

“Mr Gandley has contended that he was seeking to help young people who were experiencing difficulties in relation to their sexuality.

“Even if that was his aim, he approached the matter in a completely unacceptable fashion and without any regard for the potential risks which were clearly set out in the schools’ policies and procedures.

“He had no formal pastoral role and failed to consult with or inform his colleagues of his actions.

“Therefore the inevitable conclusion to draw from his behaviour is that he did not have the best interests of the pupils at heart and his relationships with pupils quickly developed a wholly unacceptable intimacy.”

She said it was possible that ‘this sanction may lead Mr Gandley to develop some insight into the impact of his behaviour and for that reason we will give him the opportunity to apply to re-register after five years’.