Published: 3 August, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
AN expert in medieval history who taught at an all-girls school has been banned from the classroom for at least five years because he continually made inappropriate sexual remarks during lessons.
Dr Michael Davis, 55, who was head of sixth form at Highbury Fields School in Highbury Hill, was struck off by the Teaching Agency for unacceptable professional conduct.
A hearing last month considered written evidence from former pupils aged between 11 and 16 who had been asked to keep a record of his classroom comments by the headteacher between September 2007 and July 2008.
One year 8 pupil wrote: “In lessons Dr Davis keeps talking about sex and stuff and it’s not really relevant to the lesson.”
Another wrote: “He uses sexual words eg breast, rape, sex.” Another wrote: “In nearly every lesson Dr Davis always talks about sex. I think he is obsessed with that subject.”
The panel was concerned about his comments to year 10 pupils, to whom he suggested using the word SEX as a memory aid in paragraph structuring – S was for Source, E was for Evidence and X for Example. He told another year 12 pupil: “If I was younger and you were older I’d have you.”
The panel ruled: “It is clear from the evidence that inappropriate sexual comments pervaded many of Dr Davis’s lessons.”
The hearing heard from the school’s deputy head, Julia Hodson, who said concerns were initially raised by other teachers rather than pupils. As a result she warned the teacher – a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society who is an expert on the Bayeux Tapestry and has written several historical novels – to be “ultra-careful”.
She said she found him too open and “he talked about being an author of books which contained sexual scenes which he sometimes described”.
His books include Eustace the Monk, about a 12th-century Benedictine monk, which contains scenes of mutilation and homosexual encounters. Another was Landwaster: The Saga of Harald Hardrada, about the Norwegian king who attempted to invade Britain in 1066, which also contains graphic scenes.
His latest book, The Relic Thief, has “two of the most evil, most unredeemable characters I have ever created”.
Ms Hodson said that Dr Davis was a good teacher and there were no complaints from parents.
The panel ruling adds: “Although she was confident the evidence about Dr Davis’s behaviour was reliable she was concerned he may challenge, in the disciplinary proceedings, the procedure the school had followed.
Accordingly, having taken advice from the local authority, she agreed to Dr Davis leaving his employment under the terms of a compromise agreement.”
The panel said: “We consider that Dr Davis lacks insight and were concerned to note in his letter to the panel he wrote: ‘Further, in my defence you note that the allegations are about comments, there is no allegation about improper physical contact with pupils’.”
It added that his conduct “had the potential to seriously affect the wellbeing of pupils”.
Dr Davis, who did not attend the hearing and is now teaching in China, has always denied the charges.
A spokesman for Islington Council was unable to explain what the “compromise deal” was or why proceedings against Dr Davis were not initiated until March this year – five years after his comments.
The spokesman said: “We expect the highest standards from all our teachers, and support the prompt action of governors in this case.”