Art teacher banned after sleeping with pupils

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AN ART teacher who had sex with two pupils in a tent, at the beach and his mother’s home has been struck off.

Cunningham had sex with two female pupils

Christopher Cunningham,58, has already served a 12-month jail term for his “gross”  breach of trust, committed while he was a teacher at West Calder High School in West Lothian.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard last August that the married father-of-two started having sex with the girls after they turned 16.

In May 2008, he had sex with one of the girls in front of the other in a tent in the “Wild Woods” of Camilty Forest, 12 miles from Edinburgh.

Cunningham, who admitted the offences, had sex with both girls on a second camping trip and then at a beach and at his mother’s home.

His case was presented before a disciplinary committee of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

Cunningham, from Edinburgh, has already been placed on the sex offenders’ register. He did not turn up or have any legal representation.

The committee heard that Cunningham had written a letter in which he accepted that the conviction was a “relevant offence”.

Niall McLean, representing the GTCS, said that if the committee were not to remove the respondent from the register then “confidence in the profession would be undermined”.

He added: “This is an extremely serious offence of which the respondent has been convicted of.”

Committee convener Jason Fitzgerald said: “The reasons for the sub-committee’s decision were the actions that resulted in the conviction were in breach of trust and showed a clear disregard for teacher professionalism and the maintenance of trust in the profession.

“The conviction was a result of behaviour that is incompatible with being a registered teacher.”

Cunningham’s name was also given to Scottish minsters under section 2 of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 due to the nature of the charge, which will mean he cannot work with children.

Cunningham cannot apply to be restored as a teacher for 12 months.

His conduct remained a secret until, in the summer of 2009, one of the girls wrote to the school to reveal what had been happening. Cunningham was sacked by West Lothian council and the police called in.

Cunningham was said to have told his wife the girls were “flirtatious and sexually promiscuous”.

The court hearing was told that Cunningham’s teaching career had been previously trouble-free.

But was told by the sheriff that he had committed a “gross breach of trust”.

“These two young girls came to you for advice and help and were clearly vulnerable – over and above the normal vulnerability of a 16-year-old,” said Sheriff Grahame Fleming QC.

He added: “You knew what you were doing was wrong yet persisted.”

Cunningham’s lawyer said his client was filled with remorse and regret.

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