Rod Liddle

A teenage girl, a maths teacher and a righteous tabloid fury

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I seriously contemplated being a teacher once upon a time, when I was lot younger. It seemed to me an agreeable doss, and one didn’t have to be too bright or too ambitious, or possess any great quantity of knowledge. I sometimes wondered what sort of teacher I’d prefer to be; one of those ingratiating young men who plays meaningful pop songs on his guitar to the class and affects an air of faux rebelliousness, the kind of teacher whom as schoolchildren we all despised, or the other kind — sarcastic, stentorian and occasionally brutal, the kind we all feared. It was one or the other; there is no middle way.

I never found out because the one thing stopping me from being a teacher was that I could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids. It seemed to me virtually impossible not to, and I was convinced that I’d be right in there, on day one. We’re talking secondary school level here, by the way — and even then I don’t think I’d have dabbled much below year ten, as it is now called. I just thought we ought to clear that up early on. At my old comprehensive school a few teachers were known to be schtupping the pupils; one of them, a female teacher who was extremely foxy in a Pot Noodle scuzzy kind of way — she copped off with some fifth-form lad, and another teacher (a man with a guitar and a faux rebellious attitude) gained the affections of an extremely attractive fourth-form girl. As pupils, we didn’t remotely mind about this and both teachers were very popular. But I knew, when I was considering my career options, that this sort of behaviour was definitely frowned upon by the authorities and that I would not last the week in my new job. Frowned upon, although not much more, I ought to say — certainly not the deranged howling that is kicked up these days, the fury and the righteous anger.

And so, at time of writing, the hunt is on for Megan, little Megan. Megan Stammers, aged 15, from the national crematorium holding facility which is Eastbourne, has apparently eloped to France with her maths teacher, Jeremy Forrest, an ingratiating man with a guitar. But possibly not just France, because once there ‘the road network would quickly take them into Belgium, Holland, Germany and beyond’ — a valuable insight which was afforded to me by the Daily Mail, and for which I am extremely grateful. So possibly Iraq, then, or even Bhutan. They could be anywhere.

Megan’s mum, Danielle, and stepdad have done the tearful appearance before the cameras thing, with the old bill looking on balefully, come on home sweetheart, we won’t be angry, etc. It must be horrible for them, truly harrowing — but I am not sure that their situation has been eased by the howl-round, the sensationalism, the shock horror. If anything, it will have made it worse for the parents (or guardians, whatever) and will almost certainly have transmitted to the idiotic Mr Forrest a marked reluctance to return to this country. Even someone as palpably stupid as him must see that he will be eviscerated, lose his job and be charged by the police. You know, I can see the two of them now in my mind, both transfixed with the childish romance and drama and excitement of what they have done and almost certainly on a sort of level when it comes to emotional maturity. Mr Forrest serenaded Megan with ghastly sub-Ed Sheeran melodies on his inevitable guitar, one of which had been inspired by his decision to hold her hand — in full view of everyone else! — on a school trip back from the USA. I strongly suspect that Mr Forrest is ten years old really.

There is tabloid fury that the school may have known about this burgeoning relationship some seven months back, when Mr Forrest first began his burgeoning through the conduit of extracurricular maths lessons. A teacher was told about it and either failed to report it to the head of the school, or he did report it and the school did nothing.

The word the journalists are using is ‘grooming’, which is the word they always use on occasions such as this. But it is surely not grooming as we have come to understand the term. Or if so, the witless maths teacher was grooming the girl subconsciously; his songs and texts are transparent vessels of doe-eyed affection — I doubt very much he would have sufficient IQ to groom a pony. It is palpably not the same as stalking some minor on a social networking site while using an alias, nor indeed plying adolescent girls with drugs and then raping them, as we have heard was the modus operandi of semi-savage Asian men in the northern town of Rotherham. Call me Kenneth Clarke, but I think there are gradations of this sort of transgression, which take account of both the intent of the perpetrator and the level of willing reciprocity (not to mention the age of the groomee, if we can call them that).

But for sure, what Mr Forrest did was wrong. I suspect — and it is only a guess — that thousands of teachers up and down the land conduct sexual relationships with their older charges and that in most cases no harm comes of it. But it is still wrong, and no matter how imbecilic the teacher involved might be, it is still exploitative, even if it is not consciously so. I just hope Mr Forrest is not so thrown by the hyperbolic furore that he neglects to return to Britain with Megan at all.