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Islington Tribune - by ROISIN GADELRAB
Published: 17 July 2009

Jay Henderson
Sacked head tells of suicide bid in woods

‘Depression’ after sack for watching porn at school

SACKED Canonbury headteacher Jay Henderson has spoken to the Tribune of his attempt to end his life two days after he was suspended for looking at pornography in his school office.
Mr Henderson, 35, read up on ways to commit suicide, went to a woodland, and tried to kill himself by inhaling helium.
The former headteacher, who has gone from a £70,000-plus salary to earning £65 a week on benefits, has also admitted that he did watch porn on his private laptop while at the school.
He is now planning to write a book about his time at Canonbury where Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport Minister Lord Adonis sent their children.
Mr Henderson said: “There are a huge amount of decent people at that school but a small percentage who wanted a private education on state money. There are numerous stories to tell.”
Mr Henderson, who became a headteacher at 28, was headhunted for the school which received an outstanding Ofsted inspection. But his downfall came when he was caught looking at pornography on his laptop.
Following his suspension in September, it emerged there were questions over whether or not staff references had been checked during his time as headteacher.
Mr Henderson has since told of working 80-hour weeks and becoming addicted to sleeping pills.
This week he told how, after his suspension, he found himself sitting in woods attempting to end his life.
He turned to family and friends, called on the help of a therapist and went “cold turkey” to shake off his sleeping pill addiction.
“They came into my office and said there’s been a complaint, you’re suspended, you may need some help, here’s a leaflet,” said Mr Henderson.
“I was being marched off school premises, crying my eyes out, suicidal, going to top myself, and someone just gives me a leaflet. Two days later I tried to commit suicide. I sat in a wood, tried to gas myself.”
He said that after his unsuccessful attempt he sank into depression.
“I lost about two stone, wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping. I’ve got the most amazing group of friends who have completely blown me away.”
Mr Henderson said his private and work life at school became blurred, partly due to the demands of parents: “I admit that I had porn on my laptop. It wasn’t illegal, it was just a bit of porn, get over it. There was absolutely no point in me having two laptops. From the minute I got up to the minute I went to bed I was working.
“In the evenings I would log on to personal and work email. It’s the nature of the parents at Canonbury and it’s so stereotypical but it’s true, they get Tarquin and Tabitha to bed and then they email me at 10pm and 11pm and I would respond straight away. I was never off-duty.”
And did he think he should have been given a final warning?
“For the porn, yes, a slap on the wrist. Another chair of governors told me if this had happened in his school I’d have been told don’t do it again, you’re a bloody good head. But because of Canonbury, because of who I am and who I have there they have to be seen to make a fuss.”
Mr Henderson said the school went through seven heads in five years before he arrived, adding: “I was the longest-serving head since 2000. One superhead lasted only one term. If it was just me who made the mistake I’d hold my hands up but it was the expectation. My union rep said no one ever told me to work that hard and that was true but the expectation was there.
“There’s a huge part of me that regrets everything big time.”
Mr Henderson, who says he has finished two chapters of his book, said he was amazed by the kind of letters parents used to send him.
“We were in a meeting once and a parent actually said school meals are outrageous, they don’t even have a decent tapas. I was thinking, what world do you live in?”
He said it was a myth Canonbury is full of upper middle class children, actually 30-40 per cent were from underprivileged homes.
But, there were those, like Lord Adonis, who expected different.
He said: “The Adonises invited me round for dinner a couple of times. The second time the head of an academy was there with his wife. It may have been a ‘set-up’. I’ve always refused secondary heads coming in and touting to our kids. I listened while they tried to sell me having the head of the academy to come in and sell it to the children. And I said no.”

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