A primary school principal has been left red-faced after an international symbol for paedophiles was unwittingly displayed in a classroom window.

Paul Irving, head of Riccarton Primary in Christchurch, was horrified when members of the public told him last week that an image of a cute, furry animal peering out from one of the rooms was actually a creepy character called Pedobear.

The bear is a symbol posted on internet message boards when people suspect a paedophile is lurking online.

The poster, innocently made by a pupil, portrayed Pedobear announcing that Riccarton was a "Please and thank you school".

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"No-one on our staff had any idea what this thing represented," Irving said.