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Woman used porn on web

A primary teacher who looked at pornographic websites when she should have been teaching eight and nine-year-olds has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

England's General Teaching Council reprimanded Kathryn Clark for failing to have proper regard for the welfare of her class between February and September 2002. The reprimand remains on the GTC register for two years.

Miss Clark taught at Charnock Hall primary in Sheffield for eight years before resigning in October 2002 after the school discovered she had accessed inappropriate websites when she should have been teaching.

A disciplinary hearing in Birmingham last week heard that she browsed the internet for adult material and emailed her boyfriend during lessons.

Print-outs of personal emails were found among children's worksheets.

Although the panel decided it could not be proven that her class of around 30 pupils was exposed to the content of the websites, it found Miss Clark guilty of viewing them during school hours.

Patricia Munt, former deputy headteacher, told the hearing that the times Miss Clark looked at the websites coincided with literacy or numeracy lessons when children would have been in the classroom.

She said: "Miss Clark would behave in a vigilant manner when using the computer and minimise the screen when she saw me approaching.

"Some of the images and content on the websites were very explicit and totally inappropriate to look at during school. I was very concerned the pupils in Miss Clark's class would have been exposed to the images."

Mrs Munt said Miss Clark often discussed nightclubs she had visited - and footballers she had met in them - with other members of staff.

Concerns were first raised by a school technician who accessed Miss Clark's computer files to move items from an account in her married name to one in her maiden name.

Inappropriate material was discovered and the contents of the folders, which contained sexual references, were shown to the head. Miss Clark was suspended and later resigned. She has no plans to return to teaching.

Miss Clark was not present nor represented at the GTC hearing, but a letter from her solicitors said that she had been experiencing an unhappy divorce at the time.

The letter said she was "mortified and ashamed" by her actions and that she admitted the allegations. It read: "She was undergoing an extremely unhappy divorce and was suffering from depression to the extent she was receiving medical treatment.

"At no time could the material have been seen by children. Our client feels very strongly she has never, at any stage, posed a risk to children."

The GTC took her personal circumstances into account and noted that the adult material, while inappropriate, was only mildly offensive and not of a seriously explicit nature.

Professor Chris Cook, chairman of the panel, said: "There is no evidence that the children actually saw the material."

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

News 17

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