A Ribble Valley teacher, who “displayed favouritism and affection” to a schoolgirl, has been banned from the classroom for two years.
Martin Wrigley, who taught at Chatburn CE Primary School, in Ribblesdale View from September 2014 to April 2016, displayed favouritism towards the pupil and kept photographs on his iPad “without legitimate reason”. He also sent inappropriate text messages to the pupil’s sister, a disciplinary panel heard.
Wrigley denied the allegations and was not present at the hearing, but a professional conduct panel of the National College of Teaching and Leadership ruled his behaviour amounted to “serious misconduct which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession”.
The panel heard evidence from a teacher at the school who said during the academic year 2014/2015, she noticed that Mr Wrigley would show favouritism towards the pupil (known as Pupil A) by picking her to be the winner of competitions or selecting her for a main part in the play. The teacher added: “It got to the point of being a joke amongst staff about who would win a particular competition as they knew it would be Pupil A.”
The panel heard a teaching assistant at the school noted Wrigley allowed Pupil A to remain in the classroom at break and after lunch. She said she spoke to Mr Wrigley and suggested he needed to be careful.
The panel also heard the teaching assistant observed Wrigley taking video films of pupils undertaking gymnastics. The video footage was of a number of pupils in pairs, including Pupil A.
Although Wrigley had not previously been the subject of any disciplinary proceedings by the National College, the panel saw evidence that shows he was previously, on a number of occasions, given informal advice about his conduct. The report said: “There was no evidence that Mr Wrigley’s actions were not deliberate or that he was acting under duress. However, in his written submissions, Mr Wrigley has referred to matters of personal mitigation arising from personal circumstances.”
In relation to Pupil B (Pupil A’s sister), the panel heard Wrigley had exchanged “inappropriate and unnecessary” texts. The report said: “Some of the messages simply involved Mr Wrigley asking Pupil B how she was and would sometimes be signed with a ‘x’ or an emoticon.”
Alan Meyrick, who made the decision on behalf of the education secretary, said: “I consider the public has a high expectation of professional standards of all teachers. I have had to consider the matter from the point of view of an “ordinary intelligent and well-informed citizen. The panel has recommended a two-year review period.”
Emma Gardiner, headteacher at Chatburn Church of England Primary School, said: “I can confirm that a member of staff was dismissed last year following the school’s disciplinary procedures.
“We have already moved on as a school but we are relieved that the broader disciplinary process has now run its course.”