Blackpool teacher investigated for ‘inappropriate’ touching of pupils ‘was not sexually motivated’, panel finds

St Mary's school in St Walburgas Road, Blackpool (Picture: Google Maps)
St Mary's school in St Walburgas Road, Blackpool (Picture: Google Maps)

An “overfamiliar” music teacher overstepped professional boundaries by touching his pupils, despite being warned about his behaviour before, a panel ruled.

Simon Marsh escaped a ban from the classroom after a disciplinary panel concluded the former St Mary’s Catholic Academy teacher’s behaviour was not sexually motivated.

But it said he breached standards by putting his hands “on or near” a pupil’s waist while she was near a piano, rubbing a pupil’s shoulders, ‘swishing’ youngsters’ hair, and telling one girl, “I’m glad you’re wearing shorts,” when the wind blew her skirt up in front of other pupils.

The Teaching Regulation Agency, which had the power to ban Mr Marsh from teaching, said doing so would “clearly deprive the public of his contribution to the profession” after hearing he had made a “huge contribution in his specialist area and was a hard-working teacher”.

It added: “The panel concluded there was absolutely no evidence Mr Marsh’s actions were in pursuit of sexual gratification. The panel noted Mr Marsh did not engineer the situations and there was no evidence of any follow up to his actions.”

His action when putting his hands “on or near” the girl’s waist, which he said was to guide her away from the piano so he could demonstrate playing it, was “instinctive”, the panel said.

It added that Mr Marsh, described as “eccentric”, had been “overfamiliar with pupils” in an attempt to be liked.

Mr Marsh, who quit his post at St Mary’s, said he would not rub pupils’ shoulders but would “tap” them to get their attention. He also told the panel he “never intentionally made contact with a pupil’s hair” saying it could have been caught accidentally.

He said he made the “throwaway” remark about shorts to “alleviate any embarrassment” the pupil may have felt.

The panel said: “The panel accepts Mr Marsh’s actions were not deliberate in that he did not appreciate the impact of his actions. The panel considered Mr Marsh had reflected on his actions and was remorseful about the effect his actions had on individual pupils.”

A spokesman for the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, which runs St Mary’s, said “We are satisfied with the outcome of this case and the proportionate response to the panel’s findings.

“The strength of implementation of the school’s policy and procedures and the trust the pupils had in informing us should give parents and pupils continued confidence in our work.”