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Teacher from Old Buckenham Hall School who failed to observe ‘proper boundaries’ is banned

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 December 2014

Old Buckenham Hall School

Old Buckenham Hall School

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A former Suffolk boarding school teacher has been banned from teaching after being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

Nigel Cook, who was a mathematics teacher and rugby coach at Old Buckenham Hall School in Brettenham from 2004 to 2009, failed to “treat pupils with dignity” and observe “proper boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position”, a disciplinary panel found.

The National College of Teaching and Leadership Panel (NCTL) was found guilty of a number of accusations, including wrestling with a pupil during a rugby tour and tickling, or “zitting”, a number of pupils during a cricket tour to a Butlins holiday park.

The NCTL report said: “Mr Cook himself seems to recognise that engaging in this sort of physical involvement with young pupils, as a member of staff, was unwise and was ‘very close to what teachers should not do’.

“That view entirely accords with our assessment of these two incidents whether they be described as tickling or ‘zitting’. We are in no doubt at all that his physical contact with the pupils was inappropriate.”

There was an allegation that Mr Cook asked pupils about whether they masturbated on at least one occasion. Mr Cook made “limited admissions” in relation to this, but said it was only in response to questions or when a pupil raised the subject first.

But the report said: “We are persuaded that the topic of masturbation was quite frequently raised by Mr Cook and that he did not solely discuss this topic when questioned by the pupils.

“Given his position as a member of staff such discussions with young pupils were totally inappropriate and there is a substantial body of evidence from the pupils themselves that a significant number felt uncomfortable being involved in or overhearing such conversations.”

The report, published on December 15, ruled that Mr Cook is prohibited from teaching
indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

Mr Cook may apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but not until December 2016.

Imposing the ban on behalf of the Secretary of State, NCTL official Paul Heathcote said: “I have carefully considered the findings and recommendations of the panel in this case.

“The panel have found a number of allegations proven and have judged that those facts amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

“Mr Cook’s behaviour demonstrates a failure to treat pupils with dignity and observe professional boundaries. He has engaged in behaviour and conversations that is totally inappropriate.

“In considering whether a prohibition order is an appropriate and proportionate sanction the panel have paid due regard to the public interest considerations and have found all three elements to be engaged in Mr Cook’s conduct. Also his conduct extended over a significant period.”

Old Buckenham Hall School did not respond to a request for comment.

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