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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 15:03 GMT
Official delay over sex case teacher
Amy Gehring
Amy Gehring: Officially a risk to children
The Department for Education took eight weeks to ask for more information after being warned by police about a teacher judged to be a risk to children.

Department for Education
20 November 2000: Warned by police
07 December: Decided to act
08 January 2001: Told of new allegations
15 January: Wrote to supply agency
During that time the teacher, Amy Gehring, became the subject of further allegations involving teenage boys - of which she was later cleared.

The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, has said Ms Gehring was allowed to continue teaching because of a "monumental error" by TimePlan, the agency which employed her.

But police in Surrey, where Ms Gehring was teaching, say they warned her department that it ought to investigate the teacher.

TimePlan accepts that its local staff in Surrey failed to act on a warning letter from a Surrey child protection unit. The office manager has been sacked.

But TimePlan's chairman, Ian Penman, resents government suggestions that his company alone is to blame for what happened.

Sequence of events

Amy Gehring arrived in the UK at the end of August and began a five-week placement at a secondary school in Surrey a month later.

Claims about the teacher's sexual behaviour with pupils arose within weeks and were investigated by police in October.

"In that investigation, due to the unwillingness of one pupil to pursue a prosecution and the fact that the other complainant was over 16 years old [the age of consent] at the time of the alleged incident, we were unable to proceed with a prosecution," the police said in a statement.

But the county child protection unit, led by social services, informed the school and TimePlan on 9 November that an investigation had "indicated that Ms Gehring specifically targeted boys, and entered into sexually inappropriate relationships with them."

It said she might do so again if she obtained another teaching post "and pose a risk to children".

Other schools

"Unfortunately, the agency, which employed Gehring, failed to take action and placed her in another school," the police statement said.

That was on 1 November - during November she worked at four schools in the area.

The director of TimePlan's Surrey office, Rob Stonier, has now been sacked and the company's director of education, Chris King, has resigned.

The police also wrote to the Department for Education on 13 November. The letter was received, the department says, on 20 November.

Neither the police nor the department will say in any detail what was in that letter.

The police said it "explicitly outlined the allegations made" and said why police were not in a position to prosecute.

Blacklisting

Asked about it on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Morris said: "What they said was that they weren't pursuing charges, it wasn't going to the courts, but we would need to investigate it.

"We immediately put in place our own procedures as to whether it's to exclude [sic] Amy Gehring from ever being able to teach again."

Her department said officials had followed "to the letter" the procedures for dealing with such warnings - of which it gets about a hundred a month, the vast majority turning out to be unfounded.

After four days they asked the police to run a check on Gehring and were told on 30 November that there was nothing against her name.

Then on 7 December they decided to ask TimePlan for all its papers on the case - but did not actually do so.

New claims

Over the Christmas school holiday, the mother of a pupil at the second school became aware of new allegations and called the police.

Surrey police began another investigation jointly with other agencies, informing the Department for Education on 8 January.

It was still another week before the department wrote to TimePlan asking for all its papers on the case.

TimePlan replied with "the full facts" on 24 January.

'Thought they knew'

A TimePlan spokesman said: "We accept that we should have responded more quickly but it was always our understanding that the department had been informed of the situation.

"In fact, we had been told by both Surrey County Council and the police that this was the case."

TimePlan wrote to Ms Gehring on 11 January telling her she was suspended. She began looking for shop work.

She was arrested on 17 February and charged on 17 April. On Monday, a jury finally cleared her of the remaining charges against her.

The Department for Education has been considering putting Ms Gehring on List 99 - its blacklist of people deemed unsuitable to work with children, even if they have not been convicted of any offence.

This process is put on hold during any criminal case so as not to prejudice the proceedings.

There are about 2,500 names on the list.

See also:

04 Feb 02 | Education
Agency admits error over teacher
04 Feb 02 | Education
How teachers avoid dangerous liaisons
22 Jan 02 | England
Pupil's 'toilet sex' with teacher
01 Feb 02 | England
Jury retires in teacher sex trial
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