‘I don’t think she saw the gifts as a kind of grooming’

Emma Harfield
Emma Harfield
Peter Webb taught at Christ's Hospital School in Horsham. Picture: Google Maps

Former private school teacher to be sentenced for sexually assaulting three schoolboys

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THE boy at the centre of a case which saw a teacher banned for life from the classroom has spoken about his ordeal.

Emma Harfield was struck off for forming inappropriate relationships with two boys while she was a history teacher at Mayfield School, North End, in 2011.

Ms Harfield, 29, kissed one of the boys – known for legal reasons as Pupil A – showered him with expensive gifts such as iPads and laptops, and even shared a bed with him. She continued to contact him even after a family friend warned her to stay away.

Now excelling at university, Pupil A has spoken for the first time about how things developed into something beyond his control.

The teenager said he was ‘relieved’ when police were finally called and put a stop to Ms Harfield’s behaviour.

Several children would meet in Ms Harfield’s classroom after school for extra study sessions where she would order in pizza.

She then suggested to Pupil A that they continue the session back at her home, along with another student.

It was at one of these home study sessions that Ms Harfield kissed the then 15-year-old.

He said: ‘I went upstairs to grab a DVD and lo and behold that happened (Ms Harfield kissed him).’

The same situation happened again soon afterwards but Pupil A says he never kissed her back.

He had a girlfriend at the time and never considered himself in a relationship with the teacher.

‘Looking back on it, it was completely absurd,’ Pupil A said.

‘Why would a 26-year-old want to make friends with a Year 11 student? At the time I thought “sure, why not?”

‘It was naivety. Then I ended up in a horrible situation.’

During the Easter holidays, while Pupil A was staying with family elsewhere in Devon, Ms Harfield rang him to ask where he was.

A few hours later she turned up in the town he was in.

He said he felt he had no choice but to meet her. ‘I didn’t know what to do,’ said Pupil A.

‘I didn’t want to introduce her to my parents. It was such a weird situation. I didn’t want to be in trouble.

‘My cousin lived nearby so I asked if we could stay with him. In a way it looked like I was orchestrating the situation but I was just responding to something I felt I had to cover up.’

Ms Harfield ended up staying the night and sharing a sofa bed with Pupil A – but no physical contact took place.

When, a few days later, she again contacted Pupil A on Skype while he was staying with a friend, the friend’s mother found out and warned her stop.

The police and the school were then contacted.

Pupil A said: ‘It brought it all out in the open and I’m glad for that because it took it out of my hands.

‘It was a relief when someone said, “this is wrong. It’s not your fault”.

‘This was someone who was 11 years older than me. I was not attracted to her.’

He added: ‘Looking back on it she was nice, she seemed like a trustworthy person.

‘She got on well with you – I felt I could trust her.

‘She seemed like a normal person but it makes sense that she was needy for attention.

‘I honestly don’t think she bought the gifts as a process of grooming.

‘I think she was trying to buy attention.’

‘OTHERS LIKE ME SHOULD SPEAK OUT’

PUPIL A has urged children in similar situations to speak out.

He said: ‘My main objective in talking about this is not to say I’ve got a sorry story about my failed life, because I am doing well.

‘What I want to say is it doesn’t matter where you come from, whether you’re rich or poor, it could happen to you. If you’re under 16 it’s not your fault. And that’s what I want to get across.

‘I felt like it was my fault. I thought if people found out I would not be believed.

‘As the guy, and a student, I felt like I permitted it because I did not say anything. People can recover from things like this but only if it’s dealt with in the right way.’

He said other students in similar situation must speak out.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership found Ms Harfield’s behaviour amounted to sexual misconduct and she was given a prohibition order which is an indefinite ban from working in schools, colleges or children’s homes.