Northumberland teacher who had sex with former pupil is banned from classroom for life

A teacher has been banned from the classroom for life after admitting have sex with a former pupil and deceiving his school when quizzed about their relationship.

Thursday, 19th September 2019, 5:10 pm
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 1:27 pm
Bedlington Academy, where shamed teacher James David Bell taught, insists it takes its responsibilities towards safeguarding and promoting the safety and welfare of children extremely seriously.

The Department for Education has rubberstamped a disciplinary panel’s recommendations after concluding that there was “some risk” of James David Bell repeating his behaviour.

Science teacher Bell invited the 18-year-old teenager back to his house for intercourse after bumping into her and her friends and getting drunk with them on a Saturday night out in Morpeth, a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) meeting was told.

After a picture of him with the group appeared on social media, he was questioned at school two days later and insisted he only spent an hour with them before going home.

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“Bell was issued with a letter of management advice and no further disciplinary action was taken,” the TRA professional conduct panel meeting was told.

He then contacted the former pupil on the same day in September last year and urged her to delete all messages sent between them.

She eventually reported what happened to another teacher two months later after receiving “sexually explicit” messages from Bell and he resigned with immediate effect the following day.

Bell, 36, who had taught at Bedlington Academy for 12 years and was also Year 11 director of learning, admitted unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.

In a published summary of the case, the TRA notes that “it was inappropriate for Mr Bell to engage in behaviour of a sexualised nature with a pupil who had left the school”.

On the “false account” he gave to his employers, it adds: “The panel has found that his was a deliberate attempt to withhold the truth in order to avoid any potential consequences for his actions of that night.

“These actions were dishonest and must be considered a serious transgression from what is expected of a teacher.”

The panel also was also not satisfied that Bell – despite “having made admissions and engaged in medical care” – “has adequately recognised the serious nature of his dishonest conduct”.

Rubbertamping the panel’s recommendations for an indefinite prohibition order without the right for review, Alan Meyrick, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, said: “In my judgement, the lack of insight means that here is some risk of the repetition of this behaviour.”

Bell, who did not appear before the panel meeting in Coventry, has 28 days from the publication of the report to appeal to the High Court.

A spokesperson from The North East Learning Trust, Bedlington Academy’s sponsor, said the trust takes its “responsibilities towards safeguarding and promoting the safety and welfare of children extremely seriously” and works closely with the relevant agencies and authorities to investigate allegations.

The trust added that such cases are rare and continued: "In this particular case, Mr Bell resigned immediately after the allegations were raised against him, before any disciplinary process could be initiated by the trust.”