Headteacher sacked for affair with parent and putting her children 'at risk'

A primary school principal has been sacked after being caught having a secret affair with a parent, a labor court has heard.

Married Gareth Hughes admitted to starting an “emotional” relationship with the students’ mother and keeping it a secret from his wife.

A hearing was told that Mr Hughes – who is responsible for security at the school – took the woman’s children on overnight trips without them, gave them gifts, sent them messages and let them play video games in his office.

Following an anonymous tip, the longtime headmaster was accused of “grooming” and even “abusing” the two students and arrested, the tribunal said.

The police found no evidence and dropped the investigation.

The leader was then dismissed from Llansanffraid Church at Wales Primary School in the Welsh village of the same name, after an inquiry found his inappropriate behavior put the children “at risk of emotional abuse”.

Mr Hughes tried to sue the school for wrongful dismissal, claiming he had “done nothing wrong” but a labor judge ruled his “reckless” actions presented “obvious risks”.

Cardiff Labor Court heard Mr Hughes was Headmaster of Llansanffraid Primary School from 2001 until his dismissal in December 2018.

A court report said: “In 2014 he began what he describes as an ‘affair’ with Miss X. There is no indication that sex took place, but it is believed that the relationship was essentially an emotional affair.

“It is agreed that he has kept his relationship with Miss X a secret even after concerns were raised with him by his Deputy Headmaster and Deputy Head of Security to protect himself towards Miss X’s family and put himself in a vulnerable position as the Children were often outside in his office during core school days, even during school holidays.

“He accepts that in order to help Miss X, he would regularly allow these students to stay at school after the end of the school day, usually either in his office to play on a game console while he worked elsewhere in the building, or outside on the field before entering.

“Sometimes Mr. Hughes was the only adult present. Additionally, he accepts that he has taken one of these children on trips alone, including swimming at Wrexham, where he said he was less likely to be recognized as their headmaster, and to the cinema.

“He bought the kids presents and headed off for overnight stays in Oxford … and another overnight stay in London on a ‘reconnaissance’ for a future school trip.”

He was also heard to have messaged a child on a school-provided iPad.

Mr Hughes was suspended and investigated by police following the anonymous tip-off in March 2016.

When the police case was dropped, he faced a disciplinary hearing and was found to have “put the children at risk of emotional abuse” and then was released for gross misconduct.

He insisted that accusing him of creating a risk of emotional abuse for children was a “sick and perverse interpretation of events”.

“The [disciplinary] The panel was struck by the “reckless” disregard…of relevant policies and procedures; it found that he was not suitable either as a head teacher or as a head of child protection and child safety at a primary school,” the arbitration report said.

Mr Hughes lost his appeal and has now lost his wrongful dismissal case.

Labor judge Claire Sharp said: “His position on the Disciplinary Committee was that he had done practically nothing wrong.

“His actions while secretly having an affair with a parent at school resulted in him … traveling alone with a student, texting a student, giving gifts to students [and] being alone with these students outside of school and class times on campus because of his secret relationship with their mother.

“And most seriously, traveling with overnight stays in hotel rooms with children in the absence of their parents.

“Mr Hughes’ position was that these actions were appropriate professional behavior for a school principal and child protection/protection leader.

“He was the gatekeeper in his role as headmaster and youth protection officer; it was even more important that he stick to the guidelines.

“The risks the children were exposed to given his behavior were obvious to the untrained layperson.”

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