Yorkshire teaching assistant banned from profession after having sex with vulnerable pupil

A Yorkshire teaching assistant who had a sexual relationship with a vulnerable child and sent him "highly emotionalised" messages has been banned from teaching.

Tong Leadership Academy

Joanne Phillips, 40, began a relationship with the pupil while she was working at Tong Leadership Academy in Bradford in June 2017 and she was caught out after another adult posed as the boy and began texting her.

When interviewed by a member of staff in March 2018, she admitted to meeting with the child alone in her car, exchanging text messages with him, attempting to contact him on Facebook and Snapchat, and writing him a letter after using the school’s electronic registration system to obtain his address.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) reviewed the case and last month a professional conduct panel found she had “engaged in an inappropriate and sexual relationship” with the boy, who was her pupil at the secondary school and “described as vulnerable”.

In a report, the TRA said Mrs Phillips denied there had been a sexual relationship with the boy, referred to as Child A, but the text messages she sent made “references in the past tense to previous physical sexual contact”.

The report states: “The only logical inference from these messages is that at least on one occasion physical and sexual contact of some sort had taken place between Child A and Mrs Phillips and thus a physical sexual relationship had existed.”

It adds: “Both the letter and text messages betray the fact that Mrs Phillips was focused entirely on her own emotional needs and wishes.

“Very little regard, if any, was expressed regarding the impact of her communications upon Child A.

“The communications were vivid in language and tone, and highly emotionalised to the point where they would be very likely to have an emotional impact upon the recipient.”

Mrs Philips, who had been working at the school since 2010, resigned in June 2018 after she was presented with the allegations.

West Yorkshire Police conducted an investigation but no action was taken.

She has been banned from teaching indefinitely and is not allowed to work at any school, sixth form college or children’s home in England.

A spokesperson for the school said: “Safeguarding our pupils is our foremost priority.

“We referred this case to the Teaching Regulation Agency and are completely supportive of the decision that they have made.

“We are satisfied that the academy has a culture of zero tolerance with regard to any inappropriate conduct.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said a member of staff had texted Mrs Phillips while posing as the boy but this is incorrect and has been amended.