A RELIGIOUS education teacher who sent a pupil inappropriate Facebook messages has been suspended from the teaching register for 18 months.

Lisa Manship, who taught at Welsh medium Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni in Fleur de Lys, first messaged the girl, who had personal difficulties including a history of self-harm, in a misguided attempt at counselling.

But the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) heard the messages became more personal, Manship discussing her own problems and gossiping about pupils.

In one message she said she could not speak to the girl, 17, known as Pupil A, as she was “humping” another pupil, Manship said this was a joke.

The Professional Conduct Committee judged the friendship and Facebook contact amounted to unacceptable professional conduct following a two-day hearing, and imposed an 18-month suspension order with conditions.

Manship can return to the Register of Qualified Teachers in Wales only after that period, and after training in child protection and acceptable use of social media.

Louise Price, representing the GTCW, recapped evidence from head teacher Owain ap Dafydd who said Manship also sent messages including advice to take “plenty of paracetamol” when the girl felt ill, despite knowing her history of self-harm.

His evidence had also mentioned Manship commenting about other pupils in a sexual context, and telling Pupil A to chew and spit out marshmallows to avoid calories, a remark Ms Price described as “inappropriate.”

Her behaviour spanned a quite significant period of time, and she was aware her actions were wrong.”

The panel heard Manship admitted she did not know how to respond to the girl’s messages and had not referred concerns about her welfare to the school.

Manship, sacked in November 2012 after the girl’s mother discovered the Facebook messages, said she regretted her use of language but her comments were not meant seriously.

There was no suggestion of a sexual or romantic motive and no evidence the pair met outside school.

Manship was not present when her suspension was announced.

Teacher was ‘respected and trusted’

REPRESENTING Manship, the NASUWT’s Geraint Davies said she had lost everything through trying to help Pupil A.

He said: “This is a very sad case indeed. That school was her life. Lisa Manship had been a pupil at that school before studying at Bangor University and returning to teach RE and sociology.

“She was a well-liked teacher. She was respected and trusted by her pupils.

“She was always there as a shoulder to cry on. She was a typical Valleys girl, always prepared to lend an ear, and to help somebody in need.

“It was for that reason Pupil A confided in her by contacting her first via Facebook.”

Sporadic messaging took place between November 2009 and July 2011 when Manship was suffering from depression which “clouded” her thinking, said Mr Davies.

She was trying to deal with the father’s death, a difficult relationship, and was working full time.

Committee chairman Gareth Roberts said the proven facts constitute “unacceptable professional conduct”.

“We accept her initial motive was to provide support to Pupil A,” he said, adding that Manship’s decision not to inform the school of the self-harm discussion prevented Pupil A receiving psychiatric support earlier.

“We are not satisfied Miss Mansfield has demonstrated the level of insight that might be expected given the seriousness of the allegations.

“She should have seen the pupil as being at risk.”