Dagenham teacher banned over sex messages to pupil

A Dagenham teacher who sent sexual Facebook messages to a pupil at his former school has been banned from the profession for five years.

Benjamin Conway, now a pastor at the Tree of Life Church, which operates from Vue cinema in Dagenham, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by a Teaching Agency disciplinary panel on October 11.

While teaching at Jo Richardson Community School, in Gale Street, Conway sent Facebook messages of an “overtly sexual nature” to a pupil at Farlingaye High School in Suffolk, where he previously worked.

The pupil, who was 16 at the time the messages began in 2007, reported the conversations to her school because she felt “uncomfortable” and believed that when he asked if she had a webcam “it was going too far”.

The 36-year-old, who did not attend the hearing, denies sending the messages and maintains he was the victim of a fraud on Facebook.

In a report issued by the Teaching Agency, it was found that Conway “used Facebook to conduct a wholly unacceptable relationship with a vulnerable pupil” and that “his behaviour had the potential to cause serious harm.”

According to the report, Jo Richardson headteacher Ges Smith said he received a transcript of the messages, sent over a six month period, from Farlingaye School.

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He was “appalled at the content of the transcript in respect of the tone, language and predatory nature of the messages,” it said.

A police investigation was carried out and during an interview Conway said that he knew the girl well, had provided her with support when at Farlingaye, and that he may have had contact with her since.

But he later claimed that somebody must have created a fake Facebook site, from which the messages were sent.

After no criminal charges were brought, the school launched its own investigation and found the messages were sent during school time.

A disciplinary hearing took place and on October 20 2008 Conway resigned.

Following this month’s hearing the Department for Education banned him from teaching for five years. From October 2017 Conway can apply for the ban to be lifted, at which point a panel will decide whether he is fit to teach.

He has a right of appeal to the High Court. Conway told the Post he did not want to comment on the matter.