Teacher at girls’ school banned from teaching for ‘obsession with sex’ (UK)

Posted on July 22, 2012


A teacher at an all girls’ school has been banned from classrooms after being accused of being “obsessed with sex”.

Dr Michael Davis, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, has now been banned from teaching in England

Dr Michael Davis, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, has now been banned from teaching in England

As an expert in medieval history and the author of a series of historical novels, he seemed like an obvious candidate for a teaching role at a girls’ school.

And when Dr Michael Davis began work, he was praised by colleagues for the rigour and discipline in his classroom.

But for pupils, there was a problem – his lessons seemed more like Horrible Histories, dwelling on the seedier side of life in bygone days.

Children said his lessons were peppered with adult terms and slang, with references to “sex”, “breasts” and “rape”. He told one class that Henry VIII’s split with Rome was hastened because Anne Boleyn had “a bun in the oven”.

A class of 11 and 12 year olds were told that in the Middle Ages they would already have been married off, to men of his age. Girls aged 14 and 15 were taught to write essays using the mnemonic “SEX” – S for structure, E for evidence and X for explanation.

One class was shown the 15-rated film Restoration, which features sex and nudity in its depiction of the court of Charles II.

According to one pupil, Dr Davis, 55, a divorced father of three, seemed “obsessed with the subject of sex”. Following an investigation by the acting head teacher, the teacher agreed to leave Highbury Fields school, in north London.

Dr Davis – a fellow of the Royal Historical Society – has now been banned from teaching in England indefinitely after a Teaching Agency panel found he had engaged in “unacceptable professional conduct” through repeated use of “inappropriate sexual comments”.

He denied making any inappropriate comments to pupils and said: “All my life I had worked hard to maintain my professional reputation. This came as a great blow to me.”

Dr Davis, originally from Ipswich, was educated in America, where he qualified as an attorney and worked as a teacher for more than 20 years. After moving back to Britain in 1999, he served as a magistrate for two years.

A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is a recognised expert on the Bayeux Tapestry and has published a biography of Henry of Blois, the 12th century Bishop of Winchester. He has also had five historical novels published, which include explicit sex scenes.

One of them, Eustace the Monk, about the 12th century Benedictine monk who became a pirate and mercenary, contains graphic accounts of prostitution, homosexual encounters, and mutilation.

Another, Landwaster: The Saga of Harald Hardrada, about the Norwegian king who launched a failed invasion of Britain in 1066, contains similarly graphic scenes.

Dr Davis, who is divorced with three children and three grandchildren, began working at Highbury Fields in September 2007.

Within months he was the subject of a complaint from Julia Hodson, the deputy head teacher, who said she felt uncomfortable in his presence as she “found him too open and he talked about being an author of books which contained sexual scenes which he sometimes described”.

Despite there being no complaints from parents, Dr Davis was given two warnings for “inappropriate behaviour”. The school then began an investigation in which pupils were asked to describe anything unusual that had happened in his lessons.

One sixth-former said the teacher had told her he wanted to befriend students on Facebook so he could “keep an eye on them”. Another claimed he told her “If I was younger and you were older, I’d have you.”

Following a hearing at the school in July 2008, Dr Davis agreed to leave with a payoff worth “several months’ salary”, as his position had become “untenable”.

This month, four years after Dr Davis left the school, the case came before a panel of the Teaching Agency, the profession’s regulator, which ruled that he had engaged in “unacceptable professional conduct” and banned him from teaching in England indefinitely.

In its ruling the panel said: “It is clear from the evidence that inappropriate sexual comments pervaded many of Dr Davis’s lessons.

“The repeated use of sexualised language and sexual references falls significantly short of the behaviour expected of a teacher.”

But Dr Davis, who now teaches at a school in China, claims he was targeted because he had criticised a senior colleague in a conversation with a governor.

He said: “I was surprised as anyone in 2008 when allegations were made against me by Highbury Fields.

“The ‘investigation’ was made in a suggestive manner and relied on hearsay and double hearsay. As a lawyer, none of the so-called evidence would have been allowed in court.

“With the increasing paperwork required by teachers and the lack of respect from UK pupils, I much prefer teaching abroad, so probably wouldn’t teach in the UK again.

“The UK is losing good teachers because of time pressure, vindictive administration, foul pupils and no support from parents.”

He admitted he had made an “error of judgment” in showing the 1995 film Restoration, starring Robert Downey Jr and Meg Ryan.

He said: “I should have previewed it first … It had a couple of naked bottoms and a simulated sex scene, at which point I turned it off.”

On his novels, he said: “Once I was asked to donate a copy to the school library and I said that is wasn’t fitting, since my books were written for an adult audience and contained violence, and the occasional (though tasteful) sex scene.

“If a student asked about a book, I said it had adult content and they would need to discuss it with their parents before they purchased it. This is the first I’ve heard of my novels coming into question.”

Highbury Fields School refused to comment.

An Islington Council spokesman said: “We expect the highest standards from all our teachers, and support the prompt action of governors in this case. We also support the Teaching Agency and the functions of its Professional Conduct Panel”.

Posted in: Abuse of Power