A former geography teacher at Ursuline College in Westgate has been banned from teaching indefinitely after a conviction for sending sexually explicit messages to a girl under the age of 16.
Lee Startup, 50, was arrested for the offence in 2020 and later convicted of engaging in sexual communication with a child. The offence did not involve a pupil at Ursuline College.
In January 2022 he was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months, made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years and required to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.
A Teaching Regulation Agency panel met on 17 May this year and recommended a prohibition order be made banning Mr Startup from teaching without provisions for a review period.
The panel found Mr Startup’s actions were deliberate and there was no evidence to suggest that he was acting under duress. Panel members noted there was evidence from Mr Startup that the effect of alcohol misuse may have impacted his behaviour, but said there was limited information about this.
They also took into account sentencing remarks from the judge which revealed Mr Startip had pretended to be much younger while communicating with the girl.
The Judge said: “Posing as someone under half of your chronological age, you actively engaged in sexualised communication with a real child…”.
The panel also found little evidence of remorse, saying: “The panel was not provided with evidence that Mr Startup had clearly demonstrated insight or remorse into his behaviour. The panel had sight of the Judge’s sentencing remarks, which stated ‘The messages were explicit, I’m afraid, and provide a clear indication of you having sexual interest in children of her age. And I’m afraid your protestations to the contrary somewhat dilute your expressions of remorse.’”
Although they highlighted that Mr Startup had avoided prison because the Judge found he had: “already started with efforts to try to understand what led to (the) offending of this nature” the panel felt there was little evidence he had taken steps to address his behaviour.
David Oatley, recording the decision on behalf of the Secretary of State, said: “In my judgement, the lack of insight means that there is some risk of the repetition of this behaviour and this puts at risk the future wellbeing of pupils.”
His decision was to issue the prohibition order indefinitely.
This means Lee Startup is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. He is not be entitled to apply for restoration of his eligibility to teach.
Executive director of education at the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership – which Ursuline College is a member of – Mike Walters said: “KCSP and the Ursuline College were made aware in late August 2020 of a serious allegation of professional misconduct involving Mr Startup.
“Steps were immediately taken to ensure that Mr Startup was suspended from work and he is no longer in the employment of the Trust or the school. The allegation did not relate to any pupil or staff member in the school, the Trust or the locality.”
Mr Startup was approached for comment.