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Porn shame of teacher

PUBLISHED: 08:33 01 February 2008 | UPDATED: 19:35 05 July 2010

A LOWESTOFT teacher was caught by pupils viewing female pornography websites on a school laptop during lessons, a disciplinary hearing has been told.

It resulted in Stephen Hindes, who taught at Benjamin Britten High School, coming before the General Teaching Council, who found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and suspended him from teaching for six month.

A LOWESTOFT teacher was caught by pupils viewing female pornography websites on a school laptop during lessons, a disciplinary hearing has been told.

It resulted in Stephen Hindes, who taught at Benjamin Britten High School, coming before the General Teaching Council, who found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and suspended him from teaching for six month.

Last night Trevor Osborne, headteacher at the school in Blyford School, said Mr Hindes, who had been employed there for three-and-a-half years was immediately suspended after he was found to be accessing escort agency images.

A full investigation was launched and Mr Hindes, who is still thought to live in the Lowestoft area, has not worked at the school since.

During the hearing at Victoria Square House, in Birmingham, on Friday, committee members considered the offences, which took place during March 2006.

They heard how on March 23, pupils reported having seen inappropriate images on his laptop during a science lesson he was teaching.

Mr Hindes was unrepresented at the hearing and did not appear, but Mr Osborne, who stood as a witness for the GTC gave evidence about the content of the material he had seen from the sites.

Members heard and considered mitigating information regarding Mr Hindes' health and personal difficulties at the time of the incident but did not believe that these were sufficient to remove his responsibility for his conduct, noting that he was fit to work at the time.

The ruling said: “We consider that for Mr Hindes to have viewed such inappropriate material in a classroom situation, in the presence of pupils when he should have been teaching, using school equipment, was unacceptable.

“We do not accept the argument he put forward that pupils were not able to see the screen as they reported that they had indeed seen it. Even if they had not, the conduct is still, in our view unacceptable.

“In our view his conduct was not in accordance with GTC Code of Conduct in that he failed to take reasonable care of pupils under his supervision and failed to maintain appropriate standards of integrity in relation to the use of school property. In our view, his conduct brings the standing of the profession into serious disrepute.”

The committee considered that imposing a conditional registration order upon Mr Hindes (meaning he could remain on the teaching register with certain conditions) wouldn't be right in the circumstances of his absence from the hearing. They also voiced concern about his lack of insight into the seriousness of his conduct at the time of the investigation and his response to the GTC.

A disciplinary order and a reprimand were also ruled out.

Speaking yesterday Mr Osborne said: “A group of students reported a member of staff viewing female pornography on a laptop. After it was reported we took that person immediately out of teaching, we impounded the laptop and interviewed the students, and him. By lunchtime of that day he had been suspended and he has never taught at the school since.”

Mr Osborne spoke of Mr Hindes' difficult personal circumstances during that time, but said that although he felt for him, his actions were not acceptable under any circumstances.

The case was fully investigated by police and by a full strategy meeting of Suffolk County Council's child protection team, before it was passed to the General Teaching Council.

“All the relevant bodies were involved and all of the decisions were ratified by the General Teaching Council as appropriate and right,” said Mr Osborne. “It's about maintaining the standard of professionalism and it was referred to the GTC who supported the school's actions fully.”

Along with the suspension of his registration for six months, the council also decided to make Mr Hindes ineligible to apply for registration again until he has provided the registrar of the GTC with a current report from a doctor confirming his fitness to return to teaching.

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