Internet porn is head's downfall

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Leader spent an hour a day online at school. Oliver Luft reports

A headteacher who looked at pornographic websites during school time has been banned from teaching for two years.

David Hulmes, formerly head of Chapelfield primary, Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by England's General Teaching Council.

It heard he spent more than an hour a day on average online in school. "I do not deny errors in judgement," he said in a written statement. "This experience has made me doubt if I ever want to return to a headship."

A technician discovered the names of several dubious websites in the temporary internet files of his computer during routine maintenance in June, 2003. In the seven days prior, 14 sites with sexually explicit names had been visited. A more detailed inspection by Bury council revealed visits to sites of sexually explicit material dating back to October 2000.

In total 53 sites, with names such as hardcore.com and Dutch porn site The Hun, had been repeatedly visited.

Mr Hulmes did not attend the GTC disciplinary hearing in Birmingham, nor was he represented, but in a written submission he admitted visiting these sites. He said he wanted to test the system to make sure the sites were not easily accessible to children after hearing from a teacher that a nine-year-old pupil had easily viewed porn at a local library.

Graham Shaw, presenting officer, said it was extraordinarily unwise for him to have undertaken the endeavour without informing either the school, the governors or the local authority.

Six video downloads, which acted as tasters to longer pornographic films, were also found on his computer.

During the summer holidays in 2003 a local authority investigation was started, although it was never completed, and Mr Hulmes resigned on September 1, 2003. Before that he had been a teacher for 27 years.

Duncan Walker, technical support officer with Bury council, said: "I was very surprised that a headteacher would have been accessing these kind of images.

"I would not have expected to see images like this on a work computer - certainly not a headteacher's."

The GTC was told Mr Hulmes had presided over a school which had set exceptionally high standards and had been so good it was invited to apply for beacon status.

He was also found guilty of two other charges, one of failing to reimburse - or failure to keep appropriate records of his reimbursement for - personal calls at school, and a further charge of using his time inappropriately.

He paid pound;30 toward his personal calls and internet use - even though he ran up a bill for pound;461.

The hearing was told that he averaged 61.7 minutes online per day, and that he would regularly take breaks to leave the school grounds and to take personal drumming lessons.

He would even interrupt classes to ask teachers to solve the crossword clues that he could not solve.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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