A teacher at an all girls school in West London is allowed to continue in the profession after it was found he had held hands with a pupil, and sent another one emails with “overly friendly and unprofessional” language, making her feel “uncomfortable”. Mark Kerrigan, who was the head of the ICT department at St James’ Senior Girls School on Earsby Street, Kensington, admitted to a number of accusations at a misconduct hearing held last month.
However he denied more serious allegations of touching a girl’s bare leg and squeezing her thigh and they were found not proven. Several people wrote statements in support of the teacher as he faced the hearing. The panel heard how Mr Kerrigan, who began teaching at the school in 2016, sent email correspondence to a pupil late at night, and travelled alone in a car with a student after a rugby training session.
The school, which teaches girls from Year 7 to Year 13, says on its website that it puts the welfare of pupils first, and that “the emotional care of pupils at St James’ is given particular attention”.
READ MORE: ‘I quit £60k corporate law job for £22k teacher’s salary and have never had any regrets’
It was alleged that, between October 2018 and November 2019, Mr Kerrigan sent personal emails to a student – known only as Pupil 1 to protect her identity – using his personal and school email accounts. It was also alleged that on September 10, 2019, he travelled alone in a vehicle with the same girl.
Pupil 1 reported concerns about Mr Kerrigan two months later due to behaviour which she says made her feel uncomfortable, which later prompted Mr Kerrigan to inform her that he had received a complaint. It was also alleged that Mr Kerrigan had failed to disclose that he had sent personal communications to Pupil 1 on a number of occasions while discussing the issue with another staff member.
Following Pupil 1’s complaint it was also alleged that between September and December 2019, Mr Kerrigan had touched another pupil’s bare leg as well as squeezing her thigh. These allegations were not proven during the misconduct hearing.
Mr Kerrigan said that Pupil 1 initiated the contact asking for support, but admitted that he did not report all of the emails exchanged with Pupil 1 or add them to the school’s safeguarding system, which is a requirement. Mr Kerrigan also accepted that some of the email communication was personal in nature. However, he said that Pupil 1’s email style was conversational and akin to sending text messages, and he therefore adapted his communication style accordingly.
The panel was of the view that the email communications were personal in nature. Mr Kerrigan had referred to his personal life, sent Pupil 1 a picture of his new puppy and a “new driver” meme, and used language which was overly friendly and unprofessional. The panel took into account Mr Kerrigan’s comments about Pupil 1’s email style, however it was of the view that the volume, nature and timing of the emails, some of which were sent late at night, were “wholly inappropriate”.
On the accusation that he had travelled alone in a vehicle with Pupil 1, Mr Kerrigan admitted that he was supervising a rugby session and was responsible for bringing the kit. Pupil 1 had recently passed their driving test and had driven to the session, after which she insisted that she gave him a lift. The teacher indicated that he had initially declined but, because Pupil 1 was insistent, he agreed in the end because he did not want to upset or offend her.
(Image: Google Maps)
Mr Kerrigan said that there was another pupil in the vehicle when he accepted the lift. However, Pupil 1 dropped off her classmate first. Mr Kerrigan said that he was not aware this would be the case when he accepted the lift, but remained in the car after the other pupil had left. He was clear that he had no ulterior motive when doing so.
An Ofsted report in 2019 rated the school, which allows breaks in the afternoon for meditation, ‘excellent’ in all areas, with inspectors commenting: “The main factors behind pupils’ excellent achievements are the high quality of teaching, which is intellectually rigorous, resulting in enjoyable, but often challenging lessons; and the suitability of the curriculum, which provides sufficient breadth and depth for very able pupils. As a result, pupils have extremely positive attitudes to learning and are highly self-motivated. Pupils’ behaviour is impeccable, with a generally calm demeanour.”
In the teacher’s defence, a number of people made written submissions to the misconduct hearing, commenting on his “genuine” character and “professional” nature. One person said: “Mr Kerrigan taught my child computer studies and was an exceptional and outstanding teacher in that he helped her realise her true potential and excel at the subject. Each interaction he had with them was genuine, caring, respectful and as a matter of fact life-changing.”
Another added: “I strongly believe Mr Kerrigan to be an honest and trustworthy teacher. He demonstrated strong moral principles and consistently showed high standards of professional conduct. I firmly believe that Mr Kerrigan has continued to maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour as our relationship has continued outside of the school environment.”
A third added: “I remember Mark Kerrigan with great fondness, on account of his great capacity for empathy and thoughtfulness. I consider him one of the kindest people I have worked with. He was someone who always noticed people, students and staff alike, and would always go out of his way to cheer someone up, or offer a kind word when they were having a bad day.”
The panel considered that Mr Kerrigan’s conduct, though serious, was not at the most serious end of the spectrum. The panel accepted that, while Mr Kerrigan’s actions were misguided and, at times, inappropriate, he had good intentions and he was seeking to protect Pupil 1 in particular.
There was no evidence before the panel that there was an ulterior motive or any malicious intent on Mr Kerrigan’s part. And there was also no evidence before the panel that Mr Kerrigan’s actions had caused harm to the pupils involved. The panel was aware that Mr Kerrigan had 10 years of teaching experience and had a previously good record.
It was therefore determined that a recommendation for a prohibition order – a teaching ban – would not be appropriate in this case. The panel considered that the publication of the findings it had made was sufficient to send an appropriate message to Mr Kerrigan as to the standards of behaviour that are not acceptable in the teaching profession.
Do you have any stories that you think we should be covering? Get in touch by contacting [email protected]
Do you want the latest news in your area sent straight to your inbox? It only takes a few minutes! Click here.
I’m Sam, a News Reporter at MyLondon with a special interest in covering court and crime. I started in September 2021, and I’m based in Ealing. You can follow my Facebook page here.
Three stories I’ve worked on in the past month that I’m particularly proud of are:
Coming from a small town in rural Scotland, my favourite thing about London is the incredible mix of people and exploring all the amazing independent pubs, restaurants and cafes that the city has to offer.
Got a story? You can email me at [email protected] or WhatsApp me on 07711924442.