Kent teacher off work to care for non-existent girlfriend

  • Matthew Watts took compassionate leave after telling school partner was dying
  • Fosse Bank School, in Sevenoaks, Kent, later asked Watts to prove she was real
  • But he failed to prove girlfriend, who he claimed had died of the illness, existed 

A primary school teacher who took time off work to care for a non-existent girlfriend who was dying has avoided being banned from the classroom.

Matthew Watts took compassionate leave from the £12,000-a-year school on dates in January and September 2015, before taking a full month off work later that year.

Fosse Bank School, in Sevenoaks, Kent, began disciplinary proceedings against the teacher amid concerns that the terminally-ill partner was made up.

Once proceedings had begun against Watts, he failed to provide information to prove the girlfriend, who he claimed died of the illness, was real.

Fosse Bank School, in Sevenoaks, Kent (pictured), began disciplinary proceedings against Matthew Watts amid concerns that the terminally-ill partner was made up

A report from a National College for Teaching and Leadership misconduct panel said: ‘He says that when he was taking time off school he was doing so to look after his long-term girlfriend. The NCTL say that this girlfriend is a fabrication.’

‘It must have been clear to Mr Watts by that stage that he need only provide a minimal amount of information about his former partner to establish that he had been telling the truth about her all along.

‘Mr Watts has consistently refused to provide that information to anybody, although he has replied promptly to other enquiries.

‘Instead, he has repeatedly asserted that he must keep information about the identity of Person One private.

‘He asserts that any lies he told were because the headteacher was going out of her way to make his working life as difficult and unhappy as possible.

Watts was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, but the panel said they did not think being struck off was ‘a proportionate and appropriate response’.

‘The panel considers that the finding of misconduct in and of itself is sufficient to mark the misconduct and to highlight that it is not acceptable for teachers to take an unannounced leave of absence and subsequently mislead their employers as to the reasons for it,’ the panel added.