Deputy was a 'text pest'

14th April 2006 at 01:00
Teacher accused of bombarding female colleagues with unwanted messages. Nigel Iskander reports

A deputy head who is accused of harassing female members of staff is facing charges of unacceptable professional conduct.

Philip Searson, who taught at William Lilley infant and nursery school in Stapleford, Nottingham, is also charged with bullying and intimidating his colleagues.

England's General Teaching Council heard last week that he had bombarded Julie Hemsley, a teacher who has since become the school's deputy head, with text messages and gifts.

He left her chocolates on her chair in the classroom and hugged her in the car park at the end of the school day. "I dreaded it," she told the disciplinary hearing.

But when Mr Searson, who had been deputy head of the school since 1999, said he would like to see her in a PVC suit, she felt the situation was becoming intolerable. Ms Hemsley told the disciplinary hearing that she had tried to give support to Mr Searson, who was having problems at home, but that in the end he would not leave her alone.

The pair had sometimes worked from her home, planning work, as there was nowhere to do it at school. Ms Hemsley said she tried to keep this on a work-only basis so as not to give him any misleading messages, but Mr Searson continued to pour out his problems to her.

"In 2003, he cried in front of me on a weekly basis," she said. "When he was so distressed and pouring his heart out to me, I felt I had to stay.

"He wanted so much support from me that he didn't want to be friends with other colleagues."

She finally confronted Mr Searson in 2003. She said: "He was upset and devastated but he did stop texting me and we only had a work relationship."

Ms Hemsley said she had initially regarded him as a friend and a colleague and given him three presents, but he became a nuisance and made life difficult for her professionally.

After she had made it clear she did not want Mr Searson to send her any more text messages she said she saw a different side to him, claiming he shouted at her and made jokes about her with a colleague.

Ms Hemsley, who has worked at the school since 2002, said she first raised the problem with the head in June 2003, but felt awkward because Mr Searson was her superior.

Nicola Potts, a teaching assistant, told the hearing that she had received unwanted attention from Mr Searson.

She had given him her mobile telephone number so that he could ring her to confirm she had a job at the school, but then he started texting her too.

Ms Potts, who was 18 years old at the time, said he also grabbed her on a trip to the beach at Mablethorpe saying he wanted to throw her into the sea. He later claimed he was only joking.

The case was adjourned.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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