Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 30 Apr 2008

One of my maths teachers is in a relationship with a former pupil. What, as his head, do I do?

Hillary's Advice

You say that this relationship started three years ago, when she was under 18, and that the reason he has now told you about it is that they are about to move in together.
You won’t need me to tell you that this man may have committed a crime under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act. And you will have undoubtedly sought legal advice about your position.

Assuming that you feel this leaves you some wiggle room, what are the facts? A (presumably) young male teacher started a relationship with a sixth former before she had finished school. It isn’t so unusual. One estimate is that there are at least 1,500 such affairs a year in the UK. Neither is it uncommon for such relationships to last. I know of two established marriages that started this way.

But anything you do must be based on your knowledge of the people concerned. If you believe that this teacher is an honest man who, blinded by love, made a single error of judgment three years ago, and if you believe that the young woman is not the type to go stirring up trouble should the relationship turn sour (although, of course, who knows?), then there’s much to be said for doing nothing. The relationship must be old news by now around the school community and, as you say, good maths teachers are like gold.

Of course, this means that any future accusations about this affair, or – god forbid – new sexual scandal will put you in a very difficult position. It may be easier to suggest he moves on.