Kent teacher banned from profession after cocaine use and 'inappropriate' conversation with pupil

Mr Austin Whiting was the head of Year 13 at Borden Grammar School in Sittingbourne
-Credit: (Image: Google Maps)


A Kent teacher has been banned from the profession after details of his cocaine use came to light. Austin Whiting, former head of Year 13 at Borden Grammar School in Sittingbourne, also had an "inappropriate" conversation with a vulnerable pupil, a misconduct panel found.

On March 8 last year, the 46-year-old handed in his resignation, having worked at the school since September 2004. He had expressed interest in staying at the school until May 2023 to see Year 13's final days in school and to support the two exam year groups of Year 11 and 13.

However, during his notice period, just two days later, Whiting revealed he had had an inappropriate conversation with a pupil, during which he divulged personal information. Soon after, the teacher sent an email to peers in which he confirmed he had been using cocaine but was now in recovery.

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This email contained details of his addiction and information on his steps to recovering. This was followed by two meetings the following week, including one with HR where it was confirmed a formal investigation would need to take place.

It was also agreed that Whiting would formally tender his resignation in writing. Later on the same day, concerns were raised regarding the teacher’s social media use, having shared posts that referenced his drug use.

A hearing before the Teaching Regulation Authority heard that allegedly some of the Snapchat posts had been shared to ex-students and had been seen by current pupils of the school. However, it did not appear that Whiting had sent or shared any videos or posts with current students directly.

Whiting ultimately admitted to having had an inappropriate conversation with the pupil, and that he had used cocaine between March and May 2023. He denied though that he had prior knowledge of the vulnerable nature of the pupil with which he had the inappropriate talk, but the panel found this allegation to be proved.

He apologised for any impact the conversation may have had on the pupil and expressed his remorse for his conduct. The teacher further denied that he had used cocaine on site at the school, or had it on site in his car, with the panel deeming that there was not enough evidence for this allegation to be proven.

Whiting gave evidence that confirmed he accepted the aforementioned social media posts were made by him, and that they constituted an inappropriate use of social media whilst he was still a teacher. A report of the hearing stated: “The use of cocaine, a Class A drug by a teacher amounted to misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.

"The panel noted that whilst this took place outside the education setting given its findings, Mr Whiting had acted in a way that fell far short of what was expected by teachers in the circumstances, who were to be considered as role models.” The report added: “Whilst the social media posts were not encouraging drug use, they were of a highly inappropriate nature in that they confirmed that as a teacher, Mr Whiting had used a Class A drug. The panel considered that this amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

“The panel was therefore satisfied that Mr Whiting’s conduct in respect of each of the allegations found proved amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.” While deciding whether or not to ban Whiting from teaching, the panel considered he was well experienced in the field and had been well respected by his colleagues for many years.

It was ultimately decided by the panel however that a prohibition from teaching was both “proportionate and appropriate”. The report added: “Although the panel was of the view that Mr Whiting’s health at the time was likely to be a mitigating feature, it did not consider that there was any evidence which meant that Mr Whiting could not be held accountable for his actions.”

It was also noted by the panel that: “Mr Whiting had shown a high degree of insight and had clearly reflected on events. He had also put in place some measures to ensure that he had a support network in place to prevent a repetition of his conduct.”

The report went on: “However, the panel was of the view that whilst Mr Whiting had these support networks in place they appeared to be underdeveloped and it could not be assured that were Mr Whiting to face stressful events in the future that he would not repeat his conduct.”

It was therefore decided Whiting is to be prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. He can appeal for the ban to be removed in two years' time.

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