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Released On 15th Jan 2024

Serious Misconduct by Teachers involving Sexual Assault of Pupils

What to do and Who to Turn to

Neil Foden

Neil Foden, 66 years old and a Head Teacher from Old Colwyn, in Conwy North Wales has been accused of serious historic sexual abuse.  He has been charged with an array of sexual offences relating to six victims.  These include an abuse of his position of trust as a teacher, sexual communication with a child and grooming one of his alleged victims.  Mr Foden also faces allegations relating to the possession of an indecent image and that between January 2019 and September 2023 he engaged in sexual activity with five children, including one charge relating to a sexual assault of a child under 13 years old and fifteen charges relating to one alleged victim who was under 16.  Mr Foden also denies sexually assaulting a woman in November 2022.

Mr Foden has pleaded not guilty.  He remains in custody and recently appeared in court by video link, replying "not guilty" as each of the charges against him was read out in detail. 

Mr Foden will stand trial in April at Mold Crown Court, the trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

James Shawley

James Shawley was formerly the headteacher of St Bartholomew’s Primary School at West Pinchbeck in Lincolnshire, from 2016 until his arrest in 2019. As well as teaching he was a qualified FA coach and was coach of Spalding Under 11s. He previously coached Bourne Town Juniors.

On 23 December 2019, Mr Shawley was arrested at home and subsequently interviewed under caution following an undercover “sting” operation mounted by police officers posing as a child.  Following this, Mr Shawley was suspended by the School.

On 14 May 2021, Mr Shawley was convicted of four offences contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 at Lincoln Crown Court, including:-

One count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a 14 year old child;

Two counts of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity;

One count of attempting to arrange or facilitate the commission of a child sex offence, contrary to section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Our expertise

Claims against teachers relating to sexual abuse of pupils are very serious.  So much so that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”) investigated the adequacy or otherwise of the system and procedures for ensuring that teachers do not sexually abuse pupils.  In general it is the responsibility of schools to refer teachers to the police and to the Teaching Regulation Authority (“TRA”) where serious misconduct including sexual abuse is suspected.  However, the TRA only hears allegations of serious misconduct which potentially merits lifetime prohibition. No other sanctions are available. Lesser forms of misconduct and incompetence must to be dealt with at local level by employers and governors. 

The TRA categorises its cases by behaviour types. Safeguarding concerns are not a category recorded by the TRA. During the period April 2019 to March 2020, approximately 39 percent of the 300 cases referred to a professional conduct panel of the TRA related to “breach of boundaries/trust” and 11 percent related to “sexual misconduct”.   Child sexual abuse by a teacher and related misconduct would fall into these categories. However, sexual misconduct may not always involve a child, while breach of boundaries is a wide category of inappropriate behaviours which may not necessarily relate to potential child sexual abuse.

That said it remains the responsibility of schools to ensure that, where there are allegations of teacher misconduct which are not eligible for referral to the TRA, a disciplinary process takes place to establish whether the allegation can be substantiated on the evidence available.

IICSA gave examples of how it will treat allegations of teacher misconduct falling short of sexual assault.  For instance:-

The former headteacher of Hillside First School, Mr Christopher Hood, failed to refer safeguarding concerns about Nigel Leat to the local authority.   Leat was convicted of a number of sexual offences against young girls in his class.  Hood was referred to the NCTL (the forerunner of the TRA) for gross incompetence in respect of these safeguarding failures. The TRA made a prohibition order preventing Hood from ever being a teacher again as his incompetence was so serious as to amount to serious misconduct.  Despite the fact that Leat was convicted of sexual offences 2011, Samantha Robson continues to represent Leat's victims gaining substantial compensation from North Somerset Council who were responsible for employing Nigel Leat.

Mark Moore resigned as headteacher of Clifton College in Bristol at the end of 2015. The school had a number of concerns regarding Mr Moore’s handling of safeguarding issues relating to Jonathan Thomson-Glover, a housemaster who was convicted of child sexual abuse.  Clifton College did not conduct any disciplinary proceedings in relation to Mr Moore, but referred these concerns to the NCTL in August 2017.  Mr Moore submitted his representations. The determination panel decided that there was no case to answer and so the case did not proceed to a professional conduct panel to hear all the evidence and make a decision on prohibition.  Robert Shaw successfully represented one of the victims of housemaster Thomson-Glover.

Robsonshaw solicitors are a niche firm specialising in historic and current sexual abuse claims.  We have dealt with countless claims relating to schools, both in the private and public sector. It is always prudent to seek expert legal advice if you are worried about misconduct on the part of a teacher. Please contact us on enquiries@robsonshaw.uk for a free, no obligation and confidential discussion about your potential claim.