Former Larbert High head teacher jailed for child sex offences

Neal McGowan is a former rector at Larbert High. Pic: Michael Gillen
Neal McGowan is a former rector at Larbert High. Pic: Michael Gillen

A former head teacher at Larbert High School has been jailed for inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Dr Neal McGowan was jailed for 10 months for the offences which took place while working at a school in Essex at the beginning of 2016.

McGowan, who is now living back in his hometown of Edinburgh, was told by the judge who put him behind bars that he had had “a spectacular fall from grace”.

He pleaded guilty to two offences of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, as well as two offences of making indecent photographs of the boy.

Judge Emma Peters, who sentenced him at Chelmsford Crown Court, imposed an immediate jail sentence of ten months.

She also ordered him to sign the sex offenders’ register for ten years.

McGowan will automatically be on the Barring List and will never be able to teach again.

The judge told him: “You have a hugely impressive track record in the world of education.

“Your career has brought great benefits to no doubt thousands of children for whom you have been responsible for educating and at the many schools you have worked at as a teacher, as department head and latterly head teacher you have clearly led many schools impressively.

“But what has been outlined to me can be characterised as a spectacular fall from grace.

“You succumbed to the sort of temptation that every teacher knows they should not allow themselves to be tempted by.

“You allowed yourself to be involved in sexual chat with one of your male pupils, a boy who at the time was 17 and was struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality, a matter you were aware of.”

The court had been told that the two never met up for sexual contact and the exchange of texts and Facetime messages lasted for about two months.

The court was told that during the two month period of the offences the sixth former’s behaviour and attendance deteriorated. Prosecutor Kate Davis said he was “behaving arrogantly, as if he was untouchable”.

The judge told McGowan she was sending him to prison with “regret” but the offence was so serious because he was a head teacher.

She continued: “Comparing those two months of offending against many decades of great professionalism and ability causes me to accept that this was a situation which was entirely out of character.

“Nonetheless I come back to the fact it was a gross breach of trust.”

Mitigating, Louise Sweet said McGowan was a man who had been an exemplary and inspiring teacher and headteacher, and wanted to express his deep sorrow for what he had done.

She continued : “You cannot live a life like that without something breaking in due course. You cannot mentally compartmentalise yourself like that without something going wrong.”

She added: “He is a man who is ordinarily very sound in his judgment. His judgment was clouded.”