There was moral outrage a few years ago when it became known the French President, Emmanuel Macron, married a woman who is twenty five years older than him. Worse. She left her husband and children for him and... horror of horrors… she was his teacher!
Shock! Horror! Outrage! - at least at the offices of the Daily Mail.
To be fair and accurate, although Macron told his teacher Brigitte Trogneaux that she would one day be his wife when he was just 15 years old, the couple apparently waited until he was 18 and both had left the Jesuit school he attended before starting the relationship proper. Yeah right…
For obvious professional and ethical reasons, students and teachers should not have relationships, let alone sexual ones while one is the ‘client’ of the other. Doctors, lawyers and nurses would almost certainly get struck off for it.
In the case of teachers, it’s not just a professional and ethical issue, since the 2003 Sexual Offences Act it is a legal issue as well. They would also risk a criminal record and a prison sentence.
Is that fair?
Shouldn’t students be allowed to have relationships with their teachers and vice versa without fear of breaking the law? In this country, if a 17 year old has a relationship with a teacher in their school it is not only a sack-able and barring offence, it is also a criminal offence.
Why a criminal offence?
Contrast this to the fact that if a student and teacher at separate schools have a relationship, even a sexual one where a teacher might be substantially older than the student it is considered neither a professional, ethical or indeed a legal matter.
As long as the student is over 16 of course and the student and teacher are at separate schools – it is considered a private matter, in other words a 'moral' matter.
The case of Monsieur President Macron and former Madame Trogneaux obliges us to reflect on our values – ethical, legal and moral.
What are yours?
Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching professionalism and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk or book him for a talk. His book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.