A WIDELY used schools website owned and run by a convicted paedophile has been banned by the Scottish Government.
Councils up and down the country this weekend moved to block access to a popular site called Sparklebox after its owner, Samuel Kinge, was jailed on child pornography charges.
Officials in England had already warned that the site – which boasts that it is "family-safe" – had what they called "worrying interactivity".
Yesterday the Scottish Government said all local authorities north of the border had been advised to block Sparklebox until experts could make sure it was safe.
Former teacher Kinge, 28, who was from the Midlands, was locked up for a year on 8 January after more than 400 indecent images of children were found on his computer. He had been jailed for nine months in 2005 for similar offences.
The offender, who used the profile "samuelunder5boys" on Yahoo Messenger, changed his name from Daniel after his first conviction led to him being banned from teaching and being put on the sex offenders' register.
He was said to have effectively "faked his own death" after his first conviction and reinvented himself as the owner and operator of Sparklebox.co.uk, which was approved as a source of teaching materials by the UK government.
Concerns first emerged about the site in the autumn of 2009, with some education authorities in England moving to block it.
Major authorities north of the border were this weekend following suit after advice from the Scottish Government.
A spokesman for the government said: "Scottish police forces, child protection agencies and councils work closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
"The centre has recommended that local authorities and education institutions block access to sparklebox.co.uk until they are satisfied that suitable safeguarding arrangements are in place. This advice has been disseminated to all Scottish local authorities."
A spokeswoman for Glasgow council said the authority was following the advice. A spokesman for Edinburgh yesterday said: "Now that we are aware of the issues associated with this site, we will be letting our schools know as soon as possible and we will block access."
Sparklebox had proved highly popular with teachers in hundreds of schools across the UK. Teachers were allowed to download resources, including colourful wall charts and literacy and numeracy materials, for free. The website made its money through advertising. Although aimed at adults, the website claimed to be carefully constructed so that its content, and ads, would be suitable for visitors of a younger age too.
One Edinburgh teacher, who declined to be named, yesterday said: "Most teachers I know have been using Sparklebox for years. It's a really handy resource online.
"But you can't really complain when you realise that the man behind it is a sex offender."