School leader's 'email excess'

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Headteacher accused of circulating 'racist' and 'sexist' material during school hours. Simone Dixon reports

A headteacher who allegedly sent emails containing racist and sexist comments to staff and former colleagues has appeared before a disciplinary hearing.

David Rollinson was also charged with breaching his local authority's information technology policy by downloading unsuitable material and spending excessive periods of time using the internet for personal use during school hours.

The former head of Moorside high school, in Salford, appeared before England's General Teaching Council this week charged with unacceptable professional conduct.

Mr Rollinson joined Moorside in September 2003. He had previously been headteacher at Radcliffe high, in Bury.

Julie Flanagan, Salford LEA's audit manager, told the hearing that she had been contacted by Bury council in February 2004 with concerns that a Salford head had been sending a high volume of emails to teachers at one of its schools.

An investigation found that the emails were being sent by Mr Rollinson to his former colleagues. His computer was subsequently removed by Ms Flanagan for forensic examination.

Ms Flanagan said she found that "hundreds of folders" had been created on the computer by Mr Rollinson, including one called "My Funnies", which contained jokes with titles including "Osama gets a Valentine's Day card" and "Rules for driving in Liverpool".

During her investigation, Ms Flanagan chose six random dates to analyse the use of Mr Rollinson's computer. On four of the days, it had been used mainly for recreation.

Some of the files found - including "The rules according to men", "Rules about our relationships" and "Wife finds out more than husband intended" - contained words such as "slut" and "foreplay".

Mr Rollinson, who was present at the hearing, admitted downloading jokes from a site called Strange Cosmos, and to forwarding non-work-related emails he received to staff and former colleagues.

But Mr Rollinson disputed that the emails were racist or sexist, or contained offensive or inappropriate language. He also denied that the time he spent on the internet was excessive.

Mr Rollinson was suspended in March 11, 2004, and resigned on March 29.

Ivan Hare, his representative, said the allegations were "set too high" and that the local authority's IT policy had not been brought to Mr Rollinson's attention. He said Mr Rollinson knew it was unwise to send such emails but had wanted to boost morale at the school upon his arrival.

David Winning, the former deputy head of Moorside high, said Mr Rollinson had a "very specialised sense of humour".

"Mr Rollinson is a man of the people with a heart of gold," he said. "He made an instant and immediate impact at the school and was respected and popular with staff and pupils. I never received emails containing inappropriate material from him, and I was shocked and surprised when I saw the material he did send.

"He clearly made some errors of judgement, but he should not be here before you today."

The hearing was adjourned.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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