Mounts Bay School Head Teacher Personal Statement

'We've done nothing wrong': The teen bride who is fourth wife of RE teacher 33 years her senior hits out

By Angella Johnson
Updated: 01:30 GMT, 17 January 2011


The scene is one of cosy domesticity. Retired teacher Clive Richards reclines on a sofa before a blazing hearth in the Victorian cottage he shares with his wife Jess and his two sons.

She is perched on an adjacent armchair, jumping up occasionally to warm herself by the roaring log fire.

The sound of children bickering can be heard from one of the three bedrooms. Clive shouts for them to stop arguing and all goes quiet, except for the gentle snoring of Hilda, their five-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

'We have done nothing wrong': Clive Richards and Jessica Anderson pose together at their wedding

However, the scene is less conventional than it sounds. For Clive is a heavy set, grey-haired 52-year-old, while Jess, at 19, is 33 years younger.

Jess was just 16 years old and a pupil at Mounts Bay School in Penzance when she set up home with Clive, a teacher of religious education at the school. 

The news of their relationship scandalised the tiny seaside town of Goldsithney, where they lived.

The sense of impropriety was compounded because Clive was still married to his third wife, with whom he has two sons, now aged 17 and ten – one of them a schoolmate of Jess.

‘We had done nothing wrong. I don’t see why two people can’t fall in love regardless of their age – that’s all we did.'

There was an investigation by child protection officers and the police, but this concluded that Clive had not broken any laws and the two of them were free to set up home together. In September, they married.

‘It was something we always knew would happen,’ says Jess. ‘There was never any doubt. We were frankly surprised it did not get out before it did.’

Their account of their time together is determinedly matter of fact. Yet the relationship has come at a heavy price. They were vilified by some in their village, who shouted and screamed abuse. Stones were thrown at the window of the home they shared.

When she refused to return home, Jess’s parents publicly disowned her, distraught at her choice of partner.

Clive, meanwhile, found himself cast as a public villain. He had to resign from his teaching job and says he was effectively thrown out of the Church ministry, where he was training as an Anglican priest.

Understandably, the widespread criticism still rankles with Clive and Jess and, with wedding bands on their fingers, the two are keen to make their case.

Star pupil: Jess aged 15, the year before she met Clive Richards

Speaking for the first time since they married, Clive insists that their relationship did not begin until, suffering from depression, he had left the school where Jess was the deputy head-girl.

‘I had three lessons with her at the school before I took leave,’ he says. ‘I hadn’t really even talked to her during that period and I certainly never slept with her before we set up home together.’

Jess, meanwhile, is adamant that she initiated the romance.

‘We had done nothing wrong. I don’t see why two people can’t fall in love regardless of their age – that’s all we did. The problem was I was 16; that’s what caused the furore. If it had happened now that I’m 19 I don’t think anyone would have cared.

‘Some people suggested that Clive somehow groomed me, but it was me who made the running and chased him after he left school on sick leave. I was the one who initiated our meeting. If anything, he was the prey and I was stalking him.’

In fact, says Jess, she ‘badgered’ one of Clive’s sons to hand over his father’s email address.

‘People like to portray me as some meek, mindless schoolgirl, but I’ve always been an old soul and someone who knew her own mind. Clive left the school suddenly in March 2007.

I started emailing constantly that September because I missed him and I wanted to know how he was.

‘It’s fair to say that I had a crush on him. I had always felt an attraction for him, but I honestly never thought it would go anywhere. He was a great teacher and very popular because he never talked down to his students. He treated us with respect and I found myself wanting to talk to him.’

Jess played the role of the obedient daughter at home and was the perfect student at school. Then, into the picture stepped the tall and, no doubt in his way, dashing Mr Richards – the popular teacher with two failed marriages behind him and another in slow disintegration.

Holiday snap: Jess says it was her who pursued the relationship

Clive had been off work for six months suffering from depression after being first promoted to head of RE and then demoted. ‘I was at my lowest ebb and along came Jess. Her emails lifted my spirits. She taught me to believe again. We met once for coffee, but otherwise it was emails and texts.

‘She had an canny ability to write whenever I was down and say the right thing. Then after about a month she disclosed her crush for me.

I was staggered. I said, “No you haven’t. This conversation must stop.” I responded like that because she was only 16 and had her whole life before her. She replied that she could do all of that with me.

‘I tried to fight my own feelings for her, but when she didn’t contact me for a week at the end of November I realised that I missed her. It hit me hard that at some point I had stopped seeing her as a 16-year-old girl. It felt right. I didn’t care what others thought.

‘I don’t feel like there was ever a gap. It just feels natural. But I wanted her to finished her exams so we planned to wait until she was 17 before taking things to another level and letting people know.’

The matter was taken out of their hands in January 2008, when Clive’s estranged wife, Julia, discovered the relationship and reported her suspicions to the school.

She claimed that they had been physically intimate and said it was not the first time that Clive had become romantically involved with a pupil. The social services, however, found there was no case to pursue.

Jess was told that she should let her parents know. When she sent them an email, she says, they exploded in anger.

'I’ve not spoken to them her [parents] since September 2008 and I don’t think I want a relationship with them now. My only regret is not seeing my younger brother.'

‘My mother called the police, who said it was consensual and they could do nothing. She sent my clothes to me in black bin-liners. My relatives just turned on us. Only one of my aunts and Clive’s boys stuck by us from the start.’

She, Clive and the eldest son continued to live in the rented house that was once his family home.

‘It was surreal to find we were suddenly facing each other across a kitchen table,’ she says. ‘I felt we had been forced into acting sooner than we wanted. It was also daunting because we didn’t know what would happen next.’

Despite all this, Jess excelled in her GCSEs, achieving A*s and As, before going on to gain top marks in four A-levels and the school’s ‘student of the year’ trophy.

She is plainly highly intelligent – she scored 100 per cent in her philosophy A-level – and denies any suggestion that Clive is a father figure. Indeed, when the couple decided to leave Goldsithney and move to Torquay, it was all her doing, she says.

‘I hated the small-mindedness and whispering. Everybody knew your business.’

She adds: ‘Not only did we prove the sceptics wrong by staying together and getting married last September, but Henry, Clive’s youngest son, asked to move in with us a few months ago.’

Clive is back on good terms with his former wife so now, at the age  of 19, Jess finds herself mother to two boys. ‘We are a happy family unit and he wanted to be in this environment,’ she says, flashing her diamond solitaire ring set in 18-carat white gold and platinum.

Jess says: ‘He proposed on Christmas Day 2009. He wrapped up the ring in a box and put it under the tree. I guessed what it was. He got down on one knee and proposed – he was crying.’

Notably missing from the 30 friends and family who attended were Jess’s parents – her mother, stepfather and father.

‘I’ve not spoken to them since September 2008 and I don’t think I want a relationship with them now. My only regret is not seeing my younger brother, who has been told not to speak to me.’

Her childhood, it turns out, was less than happy. Things became difficult at home, she says, after her parents, Frances and Steven Anderson, separated when she was eight years old.

‘My mother always painted my father in a bad light and made it difficult for my brother and I to see him,’ she says. She says her upbringing was strict.

‘I had to be home by 6pm, I was not allowed to use my mobile phone in the house. There was never any kisses, warm hugs or “I love you’s”.

'We were never close. I did what she demanded because it was easier than fighting her. She was the one who decided that I would become a lawyer, even though she knew that I loved literature.’

The blessing at Oldway Mansion in Paignton was followed by a reception at a friend’s house in Torbay. Clive wore a formal three-piece charcoal-grey suit, teamed with a blue shirt and blue Hermes tie. He also donned a gold pocket watch and ultra-traditional Church’s shoes.

Jess wore an elegant designer cocktail dress, bought on the internet. They rode to the ceremony on his scooter. ‘We walked down the aisle together and I blubbered the whole way,’ says Clive. ‘It was doubly special because so many friends and family had come to support us.’

Jess adds: ‘I could not stop grinning through the whole day. I felt fulfilled. I even enjoyed having my photo taken, which I usually hate.’ They took their caravan to Lynton and Lynmouth for the first week of the honeymoon and then went on to Cornwall for a week in a B&B.

Jess says she is pursuing her first love, English literature, at a local university. For his part, Clive says he has no intentions of returning to a classroom, although he does not want to say what he is doing for a living, describing it as ‘a simple little job’.

‘I do 16 hours a week and I’m here for the boys and Jess. When Jess has finished her degree, she’ll either go into teaching or postgraduate study.

'The minute she gets a job I won’t work any more. We struggled for two years on benefits and know that we can have a good life without a lot of money. I have a little pension and that will help.

‘My life is one of harmony in this house with Jess and the boys. We’ve been called an “age gap couple”, but that’s other people’s prejudice. We are just a normal couple who happen to have an age gap between us. I wish people would understand that.’

Jess looks at him adoringly and says, with apparently unshakable confidence: ‘I’ll feel the same about him when he’s 80 or 90 and in a wheelchair. Nothing can break our bond.’

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School bans red ink - and tells teachers to mark in green instead (and get pupils to respond in purple)

  • Teachers at Mounts Bay Academy near Penzance, Cornwall, told red is a 'very negative colour'
  • System is designed to encourage dialogue between teachers and pupils
  • Vice principal Jennie Hick said: 'Switching to the new marking system is certainly not about us going all soft and fuzzy'

By William Turvill

Published: 20:58 GMT, 19 March 2014 | Updated: 20:58 GMT, 19 March 2014

A school has banned teachers from marking in red pen because is it judged a ‘very negative colour’.

Teachers at Mounts Bay Academy near Penzance, Cornwall, have reportedly been told to use green pens instead.

Pupils, meanwhile, are being asked to comment on marking using purple pens.

A school has banned teachers from using red ink to mark students' work because it is a 'very negative colour'

According to The Cornishman, the new system is designed to encourage dialogue between teachers and students.

‘Switching to the new marking system is certainly not about us going all soft and fuzzy,' vice principal Jennie Hick told the paper.

She said that the system will see teachers make ‘two or three positive comments’ about homework.

It is hoped this will encourage pupils to not just look for their overall marks, but get them to respond with comments of their own.

'Switching to the new marking system is certainly not about us going all soft and fuzzy,' Mounts Bay vice principal Jennie Hick said

She told the paper: ‘I think it was felt that red ink was a very negative colour.’

However, Campaign for Real Education chairman Chris McGovern told the paper that, in fact, students prefer red ink because it makes comments easier to read.

He said: ‘A lot of schools seem to have a culture where they don’t like criticising children but actually this helps them.’

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