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Teacher faces life ban for student affair

A teacher at Tolworth Girls' School could face a ban from the classroom after starting an affair with a pupil within weeks of beginning his career.

Christopher Austen, 30, had a two-month affair with the 18-year-old in his first term as a newly qualified teacher at Tolworth Girls’ School and Sixth Form, in Surbiton.

A teaching tribunal heard Austen did not know the girl attended his school when he first met her in a supermarket, but hid the illicit liaison from his bosses when he found out the truth.

The girl, now a university student, broke off the relationship after being “weirded out” by the fact he was a teacher at her school, but said Austen pleaded for her to reconsider and told her: “I really like you, we just have to keep this secret.”

The relationship in 2016 was discovered by the school more than a year later, during an investigation into Facebook messages allegedly sent by Austen to a second pupil. A Teaching Regulation Agency disciplinary panel has now found Austen guilty of misconduct, and may ban him from the classroom for life. Austen, a modern languages teacher, joined the leading state school in September 2016, and four weeks in he struck up a relationship with the girl.

The girl said she ended the fling just before Christmas when she “couldn’t cope”, but Austen turned up at her work to try to change her mind.

Austen did not attend the tribunal but in a written statement said he knew the girl was at college but did not ask where she studied. He added that his decision not to tell school bosses was “partly selfish” because “it was my first half term being a teacher”. Austen was dismissed by the school in April 2018 and the matter was referred to the police. No charges were brought against him.

The tribunal will decide at a future hearing whether Austen should be given a lifetime ban from teaching.

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