A piece in today’s Telegraph by Camilla Turner, Education Editor:
A married music teacher who had sex with choir boys after buying them alcohol has been banned from the profession, as her former school faces questions over why she was not struck off sooner.
Laurie Softley, now 34, was let off with a warning after Ecclesbourne School in Derbyshire investigated her affair with a 17-year-old boy in 2008.
But another affair with a student five years later led to a police investigation and her resignation from the academy.
In May 2008, she contacted a 17-year-old, referred to only as Pupil A, on Facebook and arranged to meet up in a pub, then went back to her home where they had sex.
Four months later, Ms Softley was given a final written warning for gross misconduct by the school, and was allowed to continue teaching there.
In 2013, Ms Softley texted a second student, Pupil B, picked him up in her car and drove her home where they drank alcohol and engaged in sexual relations. Four years later, the boy, then 23, told a counsellor what had happened.
“Ms Softley initiated and engaged, on separate occasions, in sexual activity with both Pupil A and Pupil B,” a Teaching Regulation Agency panel found.
“Ms Softley’s conduct in engaging in inappropriate sexual activity was repeated and on each occasion followed a similar pattern.”
Tom Perry, founder of Mandate Now, campaigns for the introduction of a law requiring staff to report concerns about child welfare to the authorities. He said that under a mandatory reporting regime, the matter could have been more effectively dealt with in 2008.
“As a result this teacher has been allowed to continue with the abusive behaviour for which she has not been struck off,” he said. “Schools cannot be the setting in which the abuse occurs and then investigate themselves.”
James McNamara, headteacher at The Ecclesbourne School, said: “The decision to retain Ms Softley’s employment in 2008 was taken by the previous head teacher after a thorough investigation and consultation with all of the relevant education and safeguarding agencies.
“When more evidence came to light in 2017 and the police became involved, we took the instant decision to suspend Miss Softley, who was not allowed to return to school and whose contract was subsequently terminated at the earliest possible opportunity.
“The safety and welfare of our students is our number one concern. Our staff are aware that they have a duty of care to our students and are all aware of the consequences of failing to uphold the exceptionally high professional standards that we expect them to display at all times.”
If everyone who read this gave us just £3.00 – or even better, £3.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. Click here to make a difference. Thanks.