Published: 20:08, 21 July 2021
| Updated: 20:23, 21 July 2021
An "outstanding" teacher has been banned from the classroom for life after police found indecent images of young children on his computer.
A professional conduct panel has handed a prohibition order to Paul Symonds, 57, who had been teaching at a girls grammar school.
Alan Meyrick, making the decision on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, said: "This means Paul Symonds is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.
"Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against him, I have decided that Mr Symonds shall not be entitled to apply for restoration of his eligibility to teach."
The panel of three meet virtually last month but has just announced its findings.
It heard that Symonds had been working at Townley Grammar School for Girls in Bexleyheath for more than two years and had been rated "very good" and "outstanding" until May 2019 when the school was told police were investigating him for accessing and distributing indecent images and suspended him.
Last September at Woolwich Crown Court he was convicted of three counts of making an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child.
"The panel considered that Mr Symonds’ behaviour in committing the offences could affect public confidence in the teaching profession."
Police found six category A images on Symonds' computer along with 19 category B images and 481 category C images. Symonds told police he had been "thinking about this" before 2014. He joined the school in September 2016.
The court sentenced him to 200 hours unpaid community work over two years, placed him on the Sex Offender register for five years and told him to undertake rehabilitation activity for up to 30 days.
He was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £90 and a sexual harm prevention order was imposed for five years.
Symonds did not appear before the panel but provided a signed statement of agreed facts. The panel agreed he had breached Teachers’ Standards.
Mr Meyrick said: "The panel noted this behaviour could have had an impact on the safety and security of those children depicted in the images viewed by Mr Symonds.
"I don't know why I did it or why."
"The panel also took account of the way the teaching profession is viewed by others. The panel considered that Mr Symonds’ behaviour in committing the offences could affect public confidence in the teaching profession, given the influence that teachers may have on pupils, parents and others in the community."
The panel noted that Symonds was not sent to jail but said six of the photographs were Category A images, the most serious level of indecent images. The panel heard that Symonds told police he was “disgusted with myself. I don’t know how I did it or why” and that “I look back and I can’t believe I did it.”
When he first saw the images he told police: "I didn’t like what I saw, they were too young but I clicked on it again, I hated it, it scared me.”
The panel said it had no confirmation Symonds had taken any steps to address his behaviour.
Mr Meyrick said: "No doubt had been cast upon Mr Symonds’ ability as an educator. However, the panel determined that it was not in the public’s interest to retain him in the profession, given that the nature of his conduct fundamentally undermines the trust placed in a teacher to safeguard children."
Townley Grammar School was formerly Bexley Technical High School for Girls and was founded in 1937. It is rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted.