A TEACHER exchanged photos with a pupil, asked her for advice on how to talk to women and referred to her as his 'wingwoman' during regular text conversations, a tribunal heard.

Despite warnings Christopher Wakeford had an 'inappropriate relationship' with the girl at Sedbergh School for more than a year.

The Teacher Regulation Agency said he had committed 'misconduct of a serious nature' by regularly texting the girl as well as meeting her on two occasions.

The panel described Mr Wakeford's actions as 'unacceptable professional conduct' - but decided not to ban him from teaching.

The tribunal heard Mr Wakeford had been employed at Sedbergh School from January 2016 on a six-month contract before qualifying as a teacher in 2017 and taking on a full-time role as a history teacher, head of athletics and a resident tutor at one of the boarding houses at the school.

Following concerns about his behaviour, the school began an investigation, but during the disciplinary process he resigned. 

Between December 2018 and December 2019, Mr Wakeford exchanged messages with Pupil A on his personal mobile phone, the tribunal heard.

He was to have texted her 'late into the night', at weekends and school holidays.

He sent images of himself and received pictures and videos of Pupil A, including one of her in a 'sports crop top'.

The tribunal heard they discussed personal relationships and offered each other advice.

He also revealed to her why a pupil had been suspended.

She also told him she had seen a member of staff’s emails but he failed to inform the school, instead telling her 'hope you didn't come across anything too shocking'.

The tribunal heard he carried on texting the pupil despite 'a number of clear warnings'.

The Westmorland Gazette:

Documents released from the tribunal said: "The panel was satisfied that the conduct of Mr Wakeford amounted to misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.

"Therefore, in its judgement, the panel found that Mr Wakeford's conduct as set out in the allegations amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

"Mr Wakeford had received a number of clear warnings and instructions from senior members of the school over a period of two years, two warnings being of a general nature and one relating specifically to his future conduct relating to Pupil A.

"Despite such warnings, Mr Wakeford had ignored such instructions and had allowed a relationship to develop with a potentially vulnerable person which was wholly inappropriate, although it was important to make clear that it was not suggested that the relationship was of an intimate or sexual nature."

Opting not to ban Mr Wakeford from teaching, TRA decision maker Alan Meyrick said a prohibition order 'would prevent Mr Wakeford from teaching and would also clearly deprive the public of his contribution to the profession for the period that it is in force'.

A spokesman for the school said: "As soon as the school was made aware of the allegations we launched an investigation although Mr Wakeford resigned before it concluded.

"These allegations refer to one individual pupil, no other pupils were involved.  

"Although these allegations relate to behaviour that took place some time ago, as a school we are saddened that one of our former staff members behaved in this way. 

"Sedbergh remains proud of the caring and nurturing environment it provides for its pupils."