Teacher who kissed pupils banned from profession

Outside The Highfield School in Letchworth

John Thorn, a former science teacher at The Highfield School in Letchworth, has been banned from teaching indefinitely after gross misconduct - Credit: Archant

A science teacher sacked for gross misconduct after hugging and kissing two pupils has now been banned from teaching indefinitely. 

John Thorn - also known as Jack - had been a science teacher at The Highfield School in Letchworth for almost a decade when he was dismissed in December 2019 following a disciplinary hearing.

The 49-year-old had been given a final written warning in 2016 after giving a pupil his mobile number, obtaining her number and meeting her for a drink in a pub.

Following an allegation of sexual assault against another pupil in 2019,  he was sacked.

Now the Teaching Regulation Agency has banned Thorn from teaching indefinitely, following a professional conduct panel hearing.

Thorn admitted exchanging mobile numbers with a pupil in 2016, texting her, telling her she was gorgeous and meeting her for a drink, but said he didn't remember telling her to keep their meeting secret. The panel found Thorn had also hugged her and kissed her on the head and cheek.

In giving evidence, the pupil said Thorn had also suggested meeting up again to go for a walk, to which Thorn said he may have offered to meet up for a walk if she was having difficulties at home and wanted to talk, in an attempt to provide pastoral support. 

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In June 2019, the mother of another pupil reported Thorn for sexual assault against her daughter.

The panel found between 2018 and 2019, Thorn had hugged and kissed this pupil - who he knew had additional vulnerabilities - while alone in a room together, putting his arms around her waist, holding her tightly in a lengthy embrace, smelling her hair, rubbing his hands over her back and hair, and kissing her cheek.

Thorn only admitted hugging the pupil, but the panel concluded: "It was more likely than not, during a hug" he had done these other things "in a supportive way".

The panel also concluded Thorn had told this pupil she was "gorgeous", "dangerous and tempting", and said to her "we shouldn't be doing this" and "I'm not messing with your head am I?"

Thorn said he commonly called students gorgeous in a platonic sense, but denied making the other comments.

In a report outlining the panel's decision, it says: "While the panel found the physical interaction that has been proven was inappropriate and risked straying into conduct which could be deemed of a sexual nature, the panel was not persuaded it was of a sexual nature or sexually motivated.

"Instead, the panel considers Mr Thorn's actions were more likely than not to be in pursuit of offering comfort and support to students, irrespective of how misguided this might be."

The panel concluded that Thorn's actions were unacceptable and an abuse of his position of trust, "amounting to misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession".

He has been banned from teaching indefinitely, which can be reviewed in two years.

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