Supply teacher who worked at Wythenshawe school admits sexual interest in kids after police raid his home

A supply teacher who worked at a school in Wythenshawe has been permanently banned from teaching after being found with pornographic images of children.

Ben Symons, 36, was hired to work for two days at St Paul’s Catholic High School in the Newall Green area on October 10 and 11, 2019 and was employed under the Stockport-based ‘Worldwide Teaching’ agency.

The Teaching Regulation Agency heard he admitted possessing ‘furry pornography’ and hentai depictions of children under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts, Cheshire Live reports.

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He has now been banned from teaching indefinitely by the Secretary of State after his home was raided by police on October 15, 2019, leading them to seize his electronic devices.

Symons admitted that he had been looking at “weird stuff” online, and while being interviewed, also admitted that he was “attracted to lots of different things.” He said that he had viewed sexual artwork of underage children and animals while engaging in sexual acts himself.

A document submitted by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), who held a professional conduct panel meeting regarding the case, said: “Mr Symons admitted that his interests in hentai and furry pornography developed into him viewing hentai and other artwork of underage children.

“Mr Symons further admitted that, while he did not view indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children, he did view artwork which portrayed underage children engaged in sexual activity, including oral sex, on one or more occasions. The images were therefore inappropriate and /or pornographic in nature.”

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Symons admitted that having and viewing this material implied he had a sexual interest in children and that possession of the content was sexually motivated.

He was bailed from police custody for 28 days under the condition not to undertake any paid or voluntary work in the educational sector, nor have unsupervised contact with a child under 18. Greater Manchester Police took no further action, but the case was referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).

He later signed a statement of agreed facts on November 30, 2021, agreeing to all allegations. A virtual professional conduct panel was held on February 28 this year, where he was found to be in breach of the Teachers’ Standards.

The panel concluded that his actions were a threat to pubic trust in the profession, did not regard the need to safeguard pupil’s well-being, did not act within his professional duties and responsibility, nor have regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school.

Symons was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and the TRA recommended he should be given a prohibited order with immediate effect, meaning he would not be allowed to teach.

They suggested a two year review period, as the panel acknowledged that although the misconduct was serious, there were a number of factors which they believed reduced the severity of the incident.

Documents stated: “Mr Symons had cooperated with the police fully throughout the entire process and admitted the allegations at the earliest opportunity.

“In addition, the panel considered that Mr Symons had co-operated fully with the TRA. The panel placed significant weight on Mr Symons’ openness, honesty and the levels of insight and remorse that he had shown.”

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The report also said that as no harm had come to anyone, and that the risk posed to children was found to be minimal. The severity of the incident was said to be “towards the lower end of the spectrum.”

St Paul’s Catholic High School

Symons also sought immediate professional help following the police interview at his own expense, which “impressed” the panel. He attended weekly sessions over a four month period, which he continued “periodically.”

A report published on 23 March 2022 said that the Secretary of State agreed with the recommendation of a prohibition order, but opposed the TRA suggestion of a two year review period. It said the incident was of a serious nature’ as Symons did pose a risk to children.

The findings, by decision maker Sarah Buxcey, said: “In my view the panel have given disproportionate weight to the level of seriousness of the findings, which they said “was towards the lower end of the spectrum” and “the images were representations and depictions rather than actual images of children” along with their consideration of the impact on the profession and the risk to children.

“Due to the nature of the allegations found proven and the damaging effect on the profession, I do not support the panel’s recommendation regarding review period.”

Symons has been banned indefinitely from teaching in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation, or children’s home in England. He will not be allowed to reapply to teach.

St Paul’s Catholic High School head teacher, Alex Hren said: “Saint Paul’s Catholic High School is fully committed to the principles outlined in ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2018) and rigorously implements policies, practices and procedures which promote safeguarding and the emotional and physical wellbeing of children, young people and staff.

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“Checks on all adults working at the school are undertaken, including those from supply agencies, and were also undertaken for this individual.

“The offenses relate to the individual’s behavior in his personal rather than professional life. The school no longer uses the supply agency named in the article to cover staff absence.”

The Worldwide Teaching Agency have been contacted for comment.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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