Devon

Plymouth College teacher who messaged pupils avoids ban

Darren Hawken Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Darren Hawken had told multiple students they were the "apple of my eye"

A teacher who was sacked for sending inappropriate WhatsApp messages to pupils will not be banned from teaching.

Darren Hawken told pupils at Plymouth College they were his "number one", "special", and the "apple of my eye".

The messages were sent between 2017 and 2018 to five pupils at the independent co-educational school.

Mr Hawken was dismissed on 26 November 2018 following a disciplinary hearing at the college.

An investigation was launched when a student reported the music teacher had been privately messaging another student in October 2018.

In a text message sent from Mr Hawken's personal number, he told a boy: "You're No 1 and I've given you exclusive rights to that honour."

"Many want that status, but they won't have it, you're it…You're the apple of my eye…Can't wait to see you fella. Missed you since that coffee catch up," he continued.

'Golden boy'

Mr Hawken proceeded to ask the boy to send him photos of himself while on holiday.

In another email the teacher described a student as his "golden boy" and promised him access to Conservative Party events.

A meeting held between the Local Authority Designation Officer and the police decided his actions did not require criminal investigation.

Mr Hawken taught at the £15,000-a-year Plymouth College from 1 September 2013 and had been promoted three times.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Darren Hawken was a music teacher at the independent school Plymouth College

A report by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) found his actions amounted to unacceptable professional conduct, but did not recommend banning him from teaching.

Alan Meyrick, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, said a prohibition would "deprive the public of his contribution to the profession".

The TRA said the teacher's actions were not sexually motivated.

Plymouth College said it had "acted swiftly and decisively following the unacceptable conduct of a member of teaching staff".

"We have read and accept the Teacher Regulation Agency's decision in this case", it said.

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