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Ofsted fails to tell parents of sex abuse cases

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Ofsted fails to tell parents of sex abuse cases

Post  Guest on Tue 17 Aug - 12:21

Ofsted fails to tell parents of sex abuse cases

19 May 2010

Channel 4 News has uncovered eight specific instances where Ofsted reports failed to highlight cases of sexual abuse involving school teachers. Ofsted say it does not report on cases of "inappropriate behaviour".

The investigation found cases where the education regulator did not highlight in its inspection reports of schools where teaching staff in England had either been convicted or were awaiting trial for sexual offences against pupils.

In many cases Ofsted gave the schools positive ratings for their "safeguarding" procedures.

One of the most striking cases involves Headlands comprehensive school in Bridlington where five members of staff have been convicted for sex offences against pupils in the past five years.

Astonishingly, the seven Ofsted reports covering the period when these offences and convictions occurred say nothing about them and instead some offer assurances about the quality of safeguarding at the school.

The police first began looking at the school in 2003 when allegations were made concerning science teacher Stephen Edwards. This investigation faltered.

In the following year Ofsted inspectors reported that child protection arrangements were "secure". It would later emerge, however, that during this period Edwards and another teacher, Ian Blott, had been having sexual relationships with pupils aged between 13 and 17.

A new headmaster exposed what was going on and a subsequent major police enquiry investigated several staff members. Ian Blott was jailed in 2006 for four years, Edwards in 2007, also for four years. Another teacher, Terry Mann, was imprisoned for similar offences.

In April 2008 a local authority report said there had been repeated safeguarding failures at Headlands. But when Ofsted published the findings of its latest inspection in May 2008, it made no mention of any previous problems with safeguarding and simply said that "procedures for the safeguarding of students meet national requirements".

Two months later, in August, a female classroom assistant, Lindsay Collett, received a conditional discharge for having an illicit relationship with a pupil. In the same month, the person hired to replace her, Christopher Reen, began a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old pupil.

The mother of this 15-year-old pupil spoke to Channel 4 News: "My daughter was too young to cope with it. It's caused a lot of stress within the family, the impact of what's happened. It saw the end of my marriage... It's been all consuming, really.

"I think if they had been regularly reporting on safeguarding issues and had been honest about what had happened in the past. Then things, yeah, would have been better for my daughter and maybe it wouldn't have happened."

Only last March, Christopher Reen was jailed for three years.

The school says the situation has improved. The head teacher, Chris Abbott, recently said: "A whistle-blowing culture has emerged and problems are dealt with immediately."

In another harrowing case involving a special needs school in Buckinghamshire in 2005, one of the teachers, Anthony Bulley, pleaded guilty to six counts of rape and sexual assault against four boys. He was jailed for 10 years.

Ofsted published its next report in 2007. It extols the virtues of the school, saying that child protection procedures are exemplary. But once again there is not a single mention of the major child protection failures which had occurred here since the previous Ofsted inspection.

A spokeswoman for Buckinghamshire County Council, which runs Stony Dean School, said that it had put in place "significantly more stringent and cohesive practices... Stony Dean School today is a very different environment."

In other examples found by Channel 4 News.

At a Birmingham school last year, a teacher was jailed for four years for having sex with a pupil. Two months later the Ofsted report did not highlight this, saying "safeguarding arrangements meet government requirements"

In 2008 in Barnsley, another teacher was jailed for the same offence. No mention of it in an Ofsted report six months later, merely an assertion that "safeguarding, child protection... meets requirements".

In Keighley, in Yorkshire, in 2005 a teacher who subjected a boy to years of sexual abuse was jailed for three years. Again, in the subsequent Ofsted report in 2008 there is no reference to it, but inspectors do report "effective child protection policies... are in place".

Of all the other cases that were looked at, there is only one instance of Ofsted making any reference to a previous child protection failure.

The politician who has chaired for the last decade of the select committee in charge of monitoring Ofsted, Barry Sheerman, had no idea this was going on. He said he was "shocked" and "astonished", insisting that the inspectorate has a duty to parents to report on these cases.

He also said: "We've been going through some pretty hard times with Ofsted at the moment, it's growing fast, it's growing to be a very big inspectorate and it's time, I think, it needs to be assessed very carefully by government, by the department, to assess if it's fit for purpose."

Ofsted state why - on occasion - they don't include these details. Parents can be reassured that when they don't include these details it's because the situation has been resolved. Patrick Leeson, Education and Care director at Ofsted told Channel 4 News:

"It is not the case that issues like this are never mentioned in an Ofsted report. What parents.... need to be clear about is that where Ofsted inspects a school and finds evidence that the child protection has not been adequately carried out, there will be reference to failings in an Ofsted inspection report.

"The focus of the current Ofsted inspection, school inspection arrangements, are to make very clear judgements about schools being safe places and actually carrying out their safeguarding responsibilities apropriately."

In an additional statement, an Ofsted spokesman said that although they ensure the right checks are carried out on staff members, they can't vouch for all their behaviour and that cases of inappropriate behaviour are a matter for the police and local children's services:

"Ofsted has an important role in checking that schools are doing what they should to keep pupils safe.

"Our inspectors make sure that the right checks have been carried out on staff and that pupils know how to ask for help. Our inspections cannot vouch for the behaviour of every member of staff, but ensure that the school is taking the right action.

"We do not investigate or report on individual cases of inappropriate behaviour. These are rightly a matter for the police and the relevant local children's services.

"When we inspect, we consider fully any information relating to safeguarding including information shared with us by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, and any such issues are considered as part of our inspection."

The full Channel Four News investigation can be seen on Channel 4 News tonight at 7pm.

If you have concerns about abuse that may have taken place at a school at any time then you can find more information at the following places -

- Questions 4 Schools

Questions4schools campaigns for overhaul to the statutory framework which fails to protect children in education. It also campaigns for reliable school safeguarding inspections and reports from the schools inspectorates.

- Childline



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