Teacher at prestigious boarding school given job reference that didn’t disclose warning for ‘touching students’

·2 min read
Loretto School in East Lothian
Loretto School in East Lothian

A teacher at Scotland's oldest boarding school was given a job reference which did not disclose he had been issued with a final warning for using "inappropriate language" and "touching students to a degree they did not like", an inquiry has heard.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, taught at Loretto School in Musselburgh, East Lothian, and was put on a final written warning in 2007 which said "we cannot possibly have a repeat of this behaviour", the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

The school, which was founded 1827 and is set in 85 acres of leafy and spacious rural grounds six miles outside Edinburgh, counts broadcaster Andrew Marr and former chancellor Alistair Darling among its former pupils.

Seven institutions are being investigated as part of the inquiry. Some of Scotland’s most prestigious private schools, including Fettes College and Morrison’s Academy, have offered "unreserved" apologies to former pupils who were abused while in their care.

A former senior staff member at Loretto, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told the inquiry: "I felt he was someone I needed to keep an eye on.

Fettes College in Edinburgh - Getty Images Europe
Fettes College in Edinburgh - Getty Images Europe

"His teaching had been observed and we were satisfied this was someone who had made a mistake in the classroom and had learned from it."

The hearing was told a job reference was provided for the man which did not alert any potential employers to his record of behaviour.

The senior staff member, given the pseudonym Jack, went on: "In this instance we had a member of staff who behaved in a particular way and showed a very poor judgment... he used very inappropriate language in front of some students."

Inquiry chairwoman Lady Smith interjected: "And was touching them to a degree they did not like... Surely the norm should be to tell the school asking for a reference what's on record so far as the teacher's disciplinary record is concerned? Particularly if it involved behaviour toward children.

"If you tell the prospective employers about it surely that puts them in a position to explore it with the candidate at interview... the interests of children must come first, not the interests of teachers."

The former senior staff member added: "A reference mentioning his final written warning is essentially the end of his teaching career elsewhere.

"In my experience the reality would be by saying this I would be saying this person should not be working here.

"I witnessed nothing during my time when he was on staff to give me cause for concern."

He explained that references are now written on templated forms, which ask about previous disciplinary issues and require it to be disclosed so it cannot be left out.