A maths teacher at a leading independent girls school was sacked for having an affair with one of his teenage pupils. At 34, Andrew Bolton was nearly twice the age of the sixth former.

But he insisted at an employment tribunal that he only began seeing the 18-year-old once she left the school.

Mr Bolton, former head of maths, is claiming unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination against £1,220 a term Newcastle Church High School.

The 118-year-old school, whose motto Vincit Omnia Veritas, means Truth Conquers All, is one of the most prestigious in the North East and has about 600 pupils.

Mr Bolton, of South Gosforth, Newcastle, said the girl left in July 2002 after finishing her A-levels and their affair began the following month.

But head mistress, Lesley Smith, said she believed the affair started earlier.

She told the Newcastle hearing that she believed the relationship had been developing since about October the previous year.

She said: "I believe that an inappropriate relationship had started. There was an instance where the girl was seen to be alone with him in a classroom.

"The fact that they were spending time alone together was in itself inappropriate."

Mr Bolton started at the school in September 2000 and was dismissed in December 2002 following an investigation.

His representatives Simon Goldberg maintained there was no evidence to show the relationship had started earlier than he said.

And in a statement to the tribunal, Mr Bolton claimed he was treated differently to female members of staff. He said he was asked not to be alone with pupils and should see students about their work at lunch-time support sessions in rooms where others could be present.

He added: "I do not believe that I have committed any disciplinary offence whatsoever by having commenced a relationship with a former pupil of the school."

The tribunal was adjourned to a later date.