Mill Hill School: PE teacher at top private school grabbed colleagues' bottoms and put woman 'in a headlock'

Mill Hill School (PlumpDJ/Creative Commons)
Mill Hill School (PlumpDJ/Creative Commons)

A deputy housemaster at a top London private school who grabbed his colleagues’ bottoms while making unwanted sexual advances has not been struck off.

Liam Oakes, who was a PE teacher at the £43,000-a-year Mill Hill School, made repeated advances towards two female colleagues at an end-of-term staff party on July 1, 2021 - even grabbing one in a headlock, a panel heard.

In a ruling on Friday, a teaching misconduct panel found his behaviour “unacceptable”.

But the panel did not bar him from the profession.

The hearing was told how Oakes, who previously taught GCSE and A-Level students at the boarding school, repeatedly asked one colleague “do you want to come home with me” at the pub gathering, grabbing her bottom despite her persistent rejections.

When the staff party returned to school grounds, he then attempted to follow her into a toilet, knocking on the cubicle door “over a number of minutes” before being told to leave by other members of staff.

At the same event, he grilled another colleague about her sex life, asking: “You must be really horny” and “When was the last time you had sex?”

As she stood up to walk away from him, Oakes followed her, attempting to grab her, “including at some point putting her in a headlock,” the panel heard.

This left her “in tears” and she then decided to leave the pub.

The panel also heard of an earlier incident in December 2019, where the second colleague shared a taxi back to her home with Oakes as she had agreed to let him stay in the spare room.

During the taxi ride, he repeatedly attempted to hold her hand, despite her saying “that's not happening”, and at the property, grabbed her bottom. This forced her to lock “herself in her own room”.

In mitigation, Oakes, who studied Sport and Exercise Science at Hertfordshire University, said he accepted his behaviour was “out of order”.

He said he had consumed a “significant amount of alcohol” before the party, and that he hadn’t intended his actions towards the first colleague in a “horrible” way.

He added that he had not been “reading” the situation correctly with the second individual.

The Teaching Regulation Agency said that although sexual misconduct “was present”, it considered it as being “at the lower end of seriousness”.

It said the events took place outside of work, while no pupils were at the school, and Oakes was still a “relevantly junior member of the profession”.

The TRA ruled: “The panel was satisfied that any risk Mr Oakes presented to colleagues was not at a level which required permanent restrictive regulatory action.”

The school dismissed Oakes, who had worked there since 2017, in August 2021.

Annual fees at the north London co-ed school, founded in 1805, reach as high as £43,590 for boarders and £25,800 for day pupils.

Alumni include Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, former Times editor Simon Jenkins, and the late broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.

A Mill Hill School spokesperson said: “Liam Oakes’ employment at Mill Hill School was terminated in August 2021 for inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues and the matter was referred to the TRA.

“There were no issues relating to his behaviour towards pupils.”