Warblington School teacher trial: Colleague tells jury Sean Aldridge is 'fantastic' at his job and says teachers are 'open to abuse in digital age'
A FORMER colleague of a teacher accused of having sex with pupils said he was ‘disappointed’ at learning of messages between the defendant and complainants.
But PE teacher Sean Aldridge, 37, was branded ‘fantastic’ at his job by head of department Rob Andrew. The defendant is accused of sex with four girls aged 13 to 16 at Warblington School, Havant, between 2006-2012.
Giving evidence for the defence at Portsmouth Crown Court in the third week of Aldridge's trial, Mr Andrew launched a stinging attack on pupils making up false rumours over the internet.
Asked by defence lawyer Heather Stangoe whether he had any concerns over Aldridge’s ‘appropriateness with female staff’, Mr Andrew said: ‘No.’
Meanwhile prosecutor Robert Bryan asked Mr Andrew if he thought Aldridge was a ‘shining light with students’ to which the witness responded: ‘Absolutely, he was a fantastic teacher.’
But questioned over his reaction to text messages between Aldridge and female pupils, where the defendant allegedly said he ‘loved’ one of the girls, as well as talking about ‘hugging’ and ‘kissing’ them, Mr Andrew said he was ‘shocked’.
He added: ‘It’s disappointing.’
Mr Andrew did admit offering a word of warning to Aldridge after a school investigation into his conduct with a girl, which was thrown out.
‘We spoke but it was general advice. It was my job as a mentor to remind him of the normal expectations,’ he said.
The teacher went on to say the growth of the internet had made teachers vulnerable to malicious gossip - something the school had been slow to act on.
He said: ‘We are so open to abuse in this digital age. It’s a daily occurrence. It’s unbelievable.
‘It’s disgraceful what we have to put up with. It saddens me that students feel they can say things.
‘The school was slow to catch-up in the digital age while the pupils were working faster than we were on this.’
Dad-of-two Aldridge, of Edmund Road, Southsea, denies 28 counts of sexual activity with the four girls.