Teacher banned from classroom for life after panel finds relationship with teenage pupil at Ribble Valley school was 'sexually motivated'

A high school teacher, who called a pupil ‘stunning,’ touched her arm, hugged her and sent her a card with a caption “I literally can’t keep my hands off you” or words to that effect, has been banned from ever teaching again.

By Sue Plunkett
Friday, 22nd July 2022, 12:17 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd July 2022, 12:17 pm

Richard Pate, a former teacher at St Augustine’s Roman Catholic High School in Billington, was banned from the profession after a panel found his acts against the girl were “sexually motivated.'

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Sarah Buxcey, the decision maker for the Teaching Regulation Agency's professional conduct panel on behalf of the Secretary of State, said: " Richard Pate is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

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A high school teacher who called a pupil ‘stunning,’ touched her arm, hugged her and sent her a card with a caption “I literally can’t keep my hands off you” or words to that effect, has been banned from ever teaching again.

"Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against him, I have decided that Mr Pate shall not be entitled to apply for restoration of his eligibility to teach."

The order takes effect from the date on which it is served on the teacher. Richard Pate has a right of appeal to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court within 28 days from the date he was given notice of this order.

The panel felt that Richard Pate had not fully understood the impact of his actions on 'Pupil A' and did not fully appreciate the power imbalance between himself and the pupil which was demonstrated by his submission that, “Pupil A had a lot of choice throughout the course of the relationship.”

Pate made repeated reference to this being a 'unique' event and that one factor was 'the person that Pupil A was, her ‘personality, values, humour and manner.”

The panel felt this was an indication of Pate’s lack of appreciation for the severity of his conduct and the fact that the victim was aged 15 and 16 at the time of the conduct. The panel therefore felt that Pate’s insufficient insight into his actions led the panel to conclude that there remained a risk that a similar gross error of judgment could occur in the future.

During the hearing, held on July 4th, Richard Pate admitted to engaging in sexual touching with the girl in the months after she had left school, and phoning in sick to work twice in order to go and meet her.

In evidence provided to the panel it was said Pate was holding one-to-one tuition with the key stage four pupil, saying it was a “legitimate and effective tool for delivering pupil progress.”

Despite the pupil saying she felt she longer required the tuition, Pate agreed to continue as he had developed a “fondness” for her.

Speaking to a witness, the girl said she had become “close” with Pate while she was a pupil at the school, explaining that he provided extra support lessons for her alone, which she had recognised as “special treatment.”

The English teacher said he could not remember, but it was 'possible' he had touched the girl, however photos showed him with his arm around her in the classroom.

The pupil said in her statement: “He would sit next to and sometimes touch my arm and put his arm round me as a friendly hug.”

Pate also gave the pupil a book with a note inside saying “you know where I’ll be If you need me”, as well as writing in the book that she had a “gorgeous smile”, something he said he regretted.

Pate stated that over his 14 years of teaching he had given a number of pupils a copy of the same book.

The book told a story about a boss who had strong feelings for his intern and how the ‘boss’ would try to restrain himself from disclosing his feelings.

Pate said the story was “an outlet for him to try and process the emotions he had been experiencing at what was a very foreign and confusing time.”

After she left school, she came across the teacher again at her prom night and he told her she looked 'stunning.' Pate said he also commented on the appearance of a number of pupils, both male and female.

Pate told the panel that his actions “were not driven by sexual intention but purely by an overwhelming and encompassing sense of joy brought through emotional companionship” – but the panel dismissed this, saying his actions were 'sexually motivated.'

After the pupil had left the school, Pate admitted he sent her one or more letters, text messages, emails from his work and/or his personal email address, and a card with the caption “I literally can’t keep my hands off you” or words to that effect.

He also admitted to meeting her on one or more occasions, going to the cinema with her, going for one or more walks with her, engaging in a ‘Panic Room’ activity with her, kissing her, and engaging in sexual touching with her.