24.02.2021

Staff at Wycombe Abbey School were warned about teacher

Wycombe Abbey School allowed Matthew McGowan, 38, to remain in his post as a drama teacher despite concerns being raised about him in 2012 

Wycombe Abbey School allowed Matthew McGowan, 38, to remain in his post as a drama teacher despite concerns being raised about him in 2012 

A £38,000-a-year girls’ boarding school failed to act on concerns about a drama teacher who had sex with a former pupil in his office – as it emerged he is now in Bermuda and married to another former student.

Matthew McGowan, 38, was banned from teaching for life after he ‘engaged in sexual activity’ with a former pupil at prestigious girls’ school Wycombe Abbey.

Mr McGowan joined Wycombe Abbey in 2011 as a drama teacher, a year after leaving Bermuda where he had taught at Warwick Academy School, one of the island’s top private schools.

MailOnline can reveal he has now returned to Bermuda and tied the knot with a former Warwick Academy student Aimee Bento, an aspiring actress and singer, on July 21.

David Horan, principal at Warwick Academy, confirmed Mr McGowan taught at the school from September 2007 to June 2010. 

Miss Bento, who performed at the 35th America’s Cup Opening Ceremonies in June, left Warwick Academy school in 2009. 

An article from the Royal Gazette in Bermuda in 2008 revealed she had played the part of ‘Crystal’ in the production ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ when Mr McGowan was the ‘drama director’. 

After leaving the UK Mr McGowan married another former student, from when he was a drama teacher at Warwick Academy in Bermuda, Aimee Bento (pictured together on their wedding day)

After leaving the UK Mr McGowan married another former student, from when he was a drama teacher at Warwick Academy in Bermuda, Aimee Bento (pictured together on their wedding day)

Miss Bento, who left Warwick Academy in 2009, has now tied the knot with her former drama teacher Matthew McGowan (pictured on her wedding day on July 21)

Miss Bento, who left Warwick Academy in 2009, has now tied the knot with her former drama teacher Matthew McGowan (pictured on her wedding day on July 21)

Describing the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ production at the time Mr McGowan said: ‘Despite the small size of the island, the talent I had to choose from was incredible.’ 

In an interview with the Bermuda Sun in 2010 Mr McGowan said: ‘I have a good relationship with the kids and that they like me…we rub along very well together, we are like a big family.’ 

Warwick Academy in Bermuda, where Mr McGowan was a director of drama when Miss Bento was attending the school

Warwick Academy in Bermuda, where Mr McGowan was a director of drama when Miss Bento was attending the school

After leaving the UK in the wake of the sex scandal Mr McGowan returned to Bermuda in 2016. He secured a job with the police service as an ‘unsworn student officer’ three weeks ago.

Mr McGowan was a 'drama director' at Warwick Academy when Miss Bento (pictured on her wedding day on July 21) was a pupil there. She is an aspiring actress and singer and performed at the opening ceremony to the 35th America's Cup

Mr McGowan was a ‘drama director’ at Warwick Academy when Miss Bento (pictured on her wedding day on July 21) was a pupil there. She is an aspiring actress and singer and performed at the opening ceremony to the 35th America’s Cup

Wycombe Abbey, the all girls' boarding school Mr McGowan joined in 2011, where he continued in his post until 2012

Wycombe Abbey, the all girls’ boarding school Mr McGowan joined in 2011, where he continued in his post until 2012

However he has now been fired from that position after revelations about his conduct at Wycombe Abbey School
came to light.

Mr McGowan had joined Wycombe Abbey, an all girls’ boarding school, in 2011. 

MailOnline can reveal how he was allowed to continue in his post despite concerns being raised about his conduct the following year. 

While ‘some action was taken’ in 2012, the school allowed him to continue as a drama teacher.   

Aimee Bento (right) performing in 2008 met McGowan when he was her drama teacher

Aimee Bento (right) performing in 2008 met McGowan when he was her drama teacher

In letters to parents and former students, Wycombe Abbey head teacher Rhiannon Wilkinson said the school felt ‘very sad and appalled’ by Mr McGowan’s actions and regretted that his ‘conduct was not identified and stopped at the time’. 

Having being allowed to remain in his job Mr McGowan developed an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a pupil when she was still at the school which started when he wrote ‘Happy Valentine’s Day from a secret admirer’ in her diary around 2013.

He later sent emails of an ‘inappropriate nature’ before giving the pupil his mobile phone number.

This led to the pair becoming ‘very physical’ when the pupil had left the school and they engaged in sexual activity on the school premises.

Miss Bento (left) left Warwick Academy, in Bermuda, in 2009 - she has now married McGowan

Miss Bento (left) left Warwick Academy, in Bermuda, in 2009 – she has now married McGowan

Following a panel of the National College for Teaching and Leadership Mr McGowan was banned from teaching for life last month.

The pupil gave evidence to the panel saying Mr McGowan had ‘smacked’ her bottom during a rehearsal after making a comment about how much he liked the leggings she was wearing. 

He also hugged her on ‘a regular basis’, and although he claimed it was an acceptable form of pupil-teacher contact known as the ‘Wycombe Hug’, the panel rejected this. 

The pupil left the school in June 2015, and told the panel that, after this, they started to exchange naked photos and videos, before a physical relationship started. 

She said some of sexual activity took place in the school, in Mr McGowan’s office, and they also met in his car. 

Mr McGowan denied the allegation and told the panel she made false allegations about him after he rejected her approach to ‘engage in a romantic relationship’, which would have meant him leaving Miss Bento, to whom he was engaged.  

The pupil’s mother made a complaint in July 2016, which led to an investigation by the school and police, and Mr McGowan resigned in September that year. 

The panel recommended that Mr McGowan be banned from teaching with immediate effect, and not be permitted a review period.  

Allegations that Mr McGowan asked the ex-pupil to lie to police investigating his actions in 2016 were not proved.

The high-achieving school’s former pupils include actresses Rachael Stirling, Sally Phillips and Eve Best, playwright Polly Stenham and former High Court judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. 

An independent external review of the school’s handling of the affair was carried out to ascertain whether mistakes had been made and opportunities missed to identify and stop Mr McGowan earlier. It was done by Jane Cooper, who is currently the chief inspector of the schools’ inspection service and formerly principal officer of Ofsted.

Mrs Cooper’s review found ‘there had been some failures in the school’s safeguarding response to concerns about Mr McGowan when they were initially raised in academic year 2012-2013’.

It said ‘some action had been taken at that time, but it had clearly not been enough to prevent Mr McGowan’s misconduct from occurring.’ 

FROM BERMUDA TO WYCOMBE ABBEY AND BACK AGAIN 

2007 – 2010: Matthew McGowan was a drama director at Warwick Academy in Bermuda, one of the island’s top private schools.

2011 – Joined Wycombe Abbey School, an all girls’ boarding schools where fees are £38,000-a-year.

2012 – Concerns were raised about his conduct but he was allowed to remain in his post.

2013 –  Developed an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a pupil when she was still at the school.

2015 – The pupil left the school in June and they started to exchange naked photos and videos, before a physical relationship started. She said some of sexual activity took place in the school, in Mr McGowan’s office, and they also met in his car.

July 2016 – The pupil’s mother made a complaint, which led to an investigation by the school and police.

September 2016 – Mr McGowan resigned. He returned to Bermuda.

July 2017 – He married a former pupil he had taught at Warwick Academy, Aimee Bento

September 2017 – He was banned from teaching following a panel of the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

September 2017 – Joined the Bermuda Police Service but was dismissed after revelations from his time at Wycombe Abbey came to light.   

It also noted that a ‘number of significant improvements and more robust safeguarding arrangements had since been introduced’. 

Head teacher Ms Wilkinson said: ‘We have apologised to the young woman and her family who have suffered as a consequence. We have shared the review with them. 

‘This case demonstrates that all of us must always be vigilant and never complacent. We will continue to review our systems and we are fully committed to ensuring that an ever-stronger culture of s
afeguarding and pupil care remains at the heart of Wycombe Abbey.’ 

After resigning from his post in September 2016 the drama teacher, who was born in Bradford, and raised in Chepstow, South Wales, went back to Bermuda.

He married Miss Bento – who he had taught when she was a pupil at Warwick Academy – on July 21 this year at the ‘Unfinished Church’ at St. George’s in Bermuda.

The newly married Mr McGowan joined a Bermuda Police Service recruit class only three weeks ago. 

But he has now been dismissed from his position after the revelations from his time at Wycombe Abbey came to light.  

David Horan, principal at Warwick Academy in Bermuda, confirmed Mr McGowan taught at the school from September 2007 to June 2010.

He said: ‘We are shocked to hear this news out of the UK and our thoughts are with all those involved.

‘The school takes child protection very seriously with various checks in our recruitment process to proactively detect any potential prior concerns. The school also took its own initiative to introduce Scars training in 2016 for all staff.’

  

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