1492664327798 - Head of religious education at Marsden Collegiate formed inappropriate friendship with student

Head of religious education at Marsden Collegiate formed inappropriate friendship with student

The former head of religious education at a private Wellington girls’ school has been censured over an inappropriate friendship with a year 13 student.

Nigel Schofield-Matthews was a teacher at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington until July last year.

He resigned in June after emails he had been sending to the girl came to light, a decision from the New Zealand Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal says. 

It found he had formed an inappropriate friendship with the girl, who had been identified by the school as being vulnerable, because of her background. 

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He started emailing her after she showed an interest in religion and religious education, which led to them having several conversations about religion, and eventually about her personal circumstances.

The school and the tribunal accepted Schofield-Matthews had not made any attempt at sexual grooming.

The pair started emailing in March last year, and between then and May many messages were exchanged.

They included Schofield-Matthews asking her where she lived, and saying “you never know, our paths could cross … maybe a coffee … “, asking her what her favourite chocolate was, and asking her to skip a school period to go to a book fair with him. 

In his defence, Schofield-Matthews said numerous factors had contributed to his inappropriate behaviour, including the death of his father two years earlier, and health problems his wife was facing. He also had a predisposition towards care and compassion, and a pastoral approach to teaching. 

The tribunal did not strip him of his registration, but censured him and ordered him to undergo counselling, do a professional learning and development course, and have mentoring for two years.