Former teacher at school in Brettenham banned after ‘unacceptable professional conduct’

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A Suffolk teacher accused of ogling naked boys in school showers and changing rooms, discussing masturbation with them and wrestling with and tickling them has been banned from teaching indefinitely.

A disciplinary panel found that Nigel Cook, 40, a teacher at Old Buckenham Hall School in Brettenham from 2003 to 2009, was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

The National College of Teaching and Leadership Panel (NCTL) cleared Cook of looking at naked boys but found him guilty of the other allegations, deeming his sexually-oriented conversations with pupils ‘totally inexcusable’ and his physical contact with them ‘equally inappropriate’.

In its findings the panel concluded Cook had ‘not shown a proper understanding of, or a willingness to act within, the statutory frameworks which set out the professional duties and responsibilities of a teacher’.

In a decision taken on behalf of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, he has been banned from teaching indefinitely. He can apply to have the ban lifted after two years, provided he can convince the panel he has seen the error of his ways.

Imposing the ban, NCTL official Paul Heathcote said: “Mr Cook’s behaviour demonstrates a failure to treat pupils with dignity and observe professional boundaries. He has engaged in behaviour and conversations that are totally inappropriate.”

The allegation that he observed male pupils of a sports team while they were in the showers or changing rooms was dismissed by the panel.

However, it found sufficient evidence that allegations in respect of sexual conversations with pupils and ‘inappropriate physical contact’ had taken place.

In the panel’s findings Cook acknowledged he had engaged in conversations of a sexual nature with pupils, but felt them to be appropriate.

The findings considered he ‘quite frequently’ raised the topic of masturbation with pupils, continuing: “Given his position as a member of staff such discussions with young pupils were totally inappropriate.”

As regards the allegations of tickling and wrestling with pupils the panel’s findings concluded: “We are in no doubt at all that his physical contact with the pupils was inappropriate.”

Mr Heathcote said: “In view of Mr Cook’s assertions throughout the process that his behaviour was not inappropriate the panel have judged that he has shown little insight or appreciation of how ill-judged his behaviours and conversations have been.”

Mr Heathcote felt a ban of at least two years allowed time for Cook to ‘reflect on his actions and understand the importance of compliance with safeguarding practices and ensuring the wellbeing of pupils’.