Schools should be safe places for children. They also unfortunately make good targets for paedophiles.
The latest report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, published this week, focuses on residential schools- from specialist schools for aspiring musicians to boarding schools and residential schools for vulnerable children
As the report chillingly said: “According to Operation Hydrant,[a police investigation]approximately 40 percent of reports of non-recent child sexual abuse involving an institution, organisation or person of public prominence had connections with schools.”
Sexual abuse antithesis of what should happen at school
It went on: “The instances of the sexual abuse of children presented in this report will shock and horrify.
They represent the antithesis of everything that a school should be. For many victims and survivors, the impacts have been profound and lifelong. Some perpetrators have been brought to justice, but many have not. Some of those in positions of authority and responsibility have been held to account for their failures of leadership and governance in varying degrees, but many have not.”
Some of the examples where child sexual abuse has been proved are indeed horrifying.
“Hillside First School was a maintained school for children aged four to eight in Weston-super-Mare. For 15 years from 1995 to 2010, teacher Nigel Leat had his “favourites”, young girls many of whom were vulnerable in some way. From September 2006, there was evidence that in each school year Leat selected a different girl to sexually abuse, doing so in various locations in the school. Police discovered 454 original videos in which Leat had filmed himself abusing his pupils. He was charged with 36 separate offences, including a count of attempted rape, eight counts of sexual assault by penetration and 23 other counts
of sexual assault, all against girls under 13, the youngest of whom was 6. He pleaded guilty.”
And a third.
Clifton College is an independent boarding school in Bristol, offering a range of educational provision, from nursery to sixth form. In 2008, a former teacher, Stephen Johnston, was convicted of buggery and indecent assault of a pupil over a three-year period in the early 1990s. He had invited the boy to his flat to drink and watch pornographic videos. When other staff had complained of teenage boys going into the flat, the headteacher responded that “what happens in a private house which is not part of the School is nothing to do with me as Headmaster”. Between 1998 and 2014, what the respected housemaster Jonathan Thomson-Glover did in both his private house and in a boy’s day house at the school was to hide cameras – including in the showers, toilets and bathrooms – to film 2,500 hours of videos of boys undressing, showering, using the toilet and engaging in sexual acts. “
What emerges here – there are other examples – is that perpetrators are not involved in an isolated act – it is the industrial scale of abuse by individuals or groups of people.
ignorance and reluctance to report sexual abuse
The report said there is still either ignorance or reluctance to believe that children are sexually abused in residential schools and cases are not always reported to safeguarding officers either – even though there are dedicated officers to handle complaints. Inspections of schools are haphazard and standards in schools vary enormously.
Their chief recommendation to government said:
The Department for Education and the Welsh Government should:
• require all residential special schools to be inspected against the quality standards used to regulate children’s homes in England and care homes in Wales;
• reintroduce a duty on boarding schools and residential special schools to inform the relevant inspectorate of allegations of child sexual abuse and other serious incidents, with professional or regulatory consequences for breach of this duty; if the recommendation above is implemented, residential special schools will automatically be subject to this duty; and
• introduce a system of licensing and registration of educational guardians for international students which requires Disclosure and Barring Service and barred list checks to be undertaken.
Chair to the Inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay said:
“Day and residential schools play a key role in keeping children safe from harm, but despite 20 years of enhanced focus on safeguarding they are not as safe for children as they should be. This must change. The seven recommendations in this report must be implemented to vitally improve the current systems of child protection in schools.”
This is the last investigation report from the inquiry. A final report on all its findings will be published later this year.
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