A TEACHER groomed pupils on Facebook before meeting one in a swimming pool jacuzzi and putting his hands in her bikini bottoms, a court heard today.

Business studies teacher Alexander Thomas, 30, contacted four girls, aged 16 and 17, on social networking sites and sent them "innocuous" messages about school.

But when they replied he gained their trust to such a level that he began asking them for topless photographs - even goading one by telling her she was "not up for it".

On one occasion he allegedly arranged to meet one girl at a swimming pool before groping her breasts and placing his hands down her bikini bottoms.

On another he went for a walk with a second pupil before kissing her.

A jury heard the alleged incidents came to light when school staff heard students gossiping about Thomas and informed the police.

Thomas denies five counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity while in a position of trust and two of sexual activity with a child while in a position of trust.

He also denies possessing an indecent image of a child at Swindon Crown Court.

Anna Squire, prosecuting, said: "The defendant contacted all of these girls via Facebook.

"They started out as innocuous correspondence, and then by gaining their trust, to asking them to go beyond what was first an inappropriate relationship between pupil and teacher to what was ultimately illegal.

"He asked them to send photographs of themselves in underwear and to meet up with them for the purpose of sexual acts."

She added: "On two occasions it went beyond that, he touched the girls sexually.

"The crown allege that the defendant's purpose in requesting photographs was for his own sexual gratification.

"The very fact of asking a girl to send photographs of themselves in an undressed state was a sexual act, particularly if it was accompanied by sexually explicit messages and additional requests to meet up with the girls for sexual activity."

The court heard Thomas first began contacting the pupils as they entered sixth form at the school, which cannot be identified.

He then began to ask them for pictures before meeting up with three of them on separate occasions.

The court was told after Thomas heard one pupil would be at a swimming pool, he went there himself where he met her in a jacuzzi and began rubbing her leg.

Following the incident he began to goad the girl through text messages, telling her she was 'not up for this', and told her to prove her intentions by sending pictures of herself.

He then arranged to meet her once more in the swimming pool, where he touched her again.

Miss Squire said: "On the first occasion, when she came out of the sauna he was in the jacuzzi.

"She went to sit with him and he stroked her leg moving his hand up her thigh.

"Afterwards the defendant sent a number of other messages suggesting she was not that keen to get sexually involved. He said, 'you are not up for this'.

"When she insisted she was he told her to prove it by sending photos of herself and arranged to meet up again at the swimming pool."

The court heard that Thomas also met another girl and went for a walk with her lasting 35 minutes, where he was described as "flirtatious" throughout.

After that he began sending her texts suggesting she stayed at his home in Swindon where he claimed his parents would believe she was his girlfriend, but she declined.

The court was told he also contacted another pupil where he asked her to meet him at a hotel, she also refused.

At the same time he started texting a fourth pupil where he often commented on her body before asking her to send him topless photos, the court heard.

She agreed and sent him two pictures of herself, but ensured her face was not visible.

Thomas denies he ever acted sexually towards the girls, between August 2010 and October 2012, and claims he only asked them for sexually explicit photographs when drunk.

The trial, expected to last six days, continues.