AN Essex drama teacher who kissed a pupil in her car and went to her birthday party has been banned from working in the profession for five years.

Sarah Barton, 36, admitted having a sexual relationship with a girl at the Essex school she worked at.

It had been alleged Mrs Barton was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by having an inappropriate relationship with a pupil.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership panel heard the teacher also took the pupil to see West End musical Matilda during half-term, and booked a hotel with her.

She also had sex with the pupil, went to her house and her birthday party.

Mrs Barton admitted the facts and accepted this conduct was unprofessional.

The report said: “During 2015 and 2016, Mrs Barton taught the pupil and, at some point, a friendship developed between the two of them that culminated in a sexual relationship.”

The panel also heard Mrs Barton showed a photo on her phone of herself and the pupil kissing on the lips. The pair also met in “numerous public places”, including a pub and a restaurant.

The report said: “In light of the panel’s findings against Mrs Barton, which involved an inappropriate relationship with a pupil that developed over a number of months into that of a sexual relationship, there is a strong public interest consideration in respect of the protection of pupils given the seriousness of the conduct.

“Similarly, the panel considers public confidence in the profes- sion could be seriously weakened if conduct such as that found against Mrs Barton were not treated with the utmost seriousness when regulating the conduct of the profession.”

However, the panel did find the teacher showed passion and dedication in her work .

The report said: “The panel was left in no doubt that Mrs Barton was an asset to the profession and her not being able to teach would be a loss to both pupils and the profession as a whole.”

Mrs Barton is prohibited from teaching in any school, college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England for the next five years.