He was previously convicted of sexually touching a child in 1999, after kissing one of his pupils in a historic case at an undisclosed school dating back to the early 1980s.
He was spared a custodial sentence on that occasion and again ducked jail time at Guildford Crown Court, on August 21, despite admitting three counts of making indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of a child, one count of possessing extreme pornography and one count of possessing an indecent image of a child.
Melling’s latest conviction came after police, tipped off by online file-sharing companies, raided his family home in Woolmer Hill Road in April.
They discovered 912 of the most serious category A images, 622 category B images, 1,268 category C images and two extreme pornographic images involving a dog and a horse, as well as disturbing moving images and videos.
The court heard the husband and father of two was also found with 12 cartoon indecent images of children on two hard drives and a computer seized by police at his home.
Messages found on two mobile phones seized also revealed he had shown interest in a nine year-old child from a family in Kenya he was sponsoring.
Melling was handed a three-year community order and ordered to carry out a 100-day treatment programme, in addition to paying costs of £480.
He was also given a 10-year order restricting his use of the internet, banned from travelling to Kenya, and made to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for a decade.
Melling spent a number of years at Waverley Abbey School over two decades, working his way up from the church school’s gymnastics teacher to headteacher.
Several ex-pupils reacted with disbelief and disgust at the news, with one posting on Facebook: “Oh god he was my gymnastics teacher at Waverley Abbey School. We used to travel to competitions with him, he was the headteacher!
“The nature of his offences are truly sickening and he has completely got away with it again.
“How is he not in jail? What a joke the justice system is, they’ve just left him to continue freely with his sick life.”
A parent added: “I am horrified that this revolting man was the head of Waverley Abbey when my two girls were there in the 80s. He has got away way too lightly.”
Others, however, commented that they never detected anything any “creepiness” or anything “untoward” about Melling, with one former pupil adding that he “loved his gymnastics and was actually brilliant with us”.
A spokesperson for the Good Shepherd Trust, the Diocese of Guildford’s multi-academy trust of which Waverley Abbey is a member, said: “We are shocked to hear of the conviction of Thomas Melling, a member of staff at Waverley Abbey back in the 80s and 90s.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors of Mr Melling’s crimes. All schools in The Good Shepherd Trust undertake rigorous safeguarding measures, an area which we are constantly working to improve.
“We have not been contacted by the police in relation to this matter.”