North Somerset serious case review after school teacher sex scandal
By thepickler | Friday, January 27, 2012, 15:50
A SERIES of 'failures at every' level led to the crimes of paedophile Nigel Leat - who abused dozens of children at a Weston-super-Mare primary school - going undiscovered for years.
Leat. 52, a teacher at Hillside First School, was jailed for an indefinite term after admitted a total of 32 offences against five female students - some as young as six - on school property from September 2006 to July 2010.
The former musician, who started working at the school in 1995, was arrested at the school in December 2010 after a parent disclosed to a teacher that Leat had been touching her daughter indecently on almost a daily basis.
The crimes were one count of attempted rape, eight sexual assaults by penetration and 23 further sexual assaults.
Father of two Leat also admitted charges of voyeurism; causing or inciting a child aged under 13 to engage in a sexual act; possessing more than 30,000 indecent photographs and movies of children, and possessing extreme pornography.
Within days of learning of abuse allegations, North Somerset Safeguarding Commissioning Board launched an independent review, the findings of which were published this week.
And although a series of recommendations have been put in place, board chairman, Tony Oliver, said he could not guarantee similar incidents would not happen.
Mr Oliver said: "I find the fact the incidents were not acted upon incredible.
"There was a failure at every level within the school.
"But I cannot say that it will never happen again."
It is understood that over his 15 years at the school Leat, of Brislington, could have assaulted up to 40 victims - some of which may have now left the school and are still to come forward.
The review looked at what happened, where, why and how and what measures could be taken from preventing it happening again.
In the review, written by social care consultant Mike Craddock, it revealed that there were 30 recorded incidents of Leat behaving in an inappropriate or unprofessional manner.
Only 11 of the 30 incidents were reported within the school to the headteacher, but were not taken any further or reported to designated North Somerset safeguarding officers.
It was also revealed on at least one occasion, a staff member suggested a referral to the local authority designated officer should be made, but the suggestion was overruled - allegedly by the headteacher. Governors were also not notified.
It was also revealed that on a number of occasions colleagues had advised Leat of the inappropriateness of his behaviour and pointed out the risk that he could have been accused of professional misconduct.
All staff and governors at the school had been issued with clear guidance and training about the actions to be taken to minimise the risk of harm to schoolchildren.
But questions were raised about the effectiveness of the training
North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board chairman, Tony Oliver, said: "Overall there was significant failure to comply with the guidance designed to promote safer working practice within schools.
"The failure of the school to take action in response to concerns raised was compounded by the failure of the school to recognise that Nigel Leat's behaviour may have constituted grooming for sexual abuse.
"There was a lamentable failure to create an environment in which the needs of the child were paramount and good practice was promoted."
Disliplinary action was taken against headteacher Chris Hood who was sacked in December last year. No further action is being taken against him.
Mr Oliver said: "Nigel Leat and Nigel Leat alone, was responsible for this criminal behaviour at Hillside First School.
"There is absolutely no suggestion that anyone other than him was involved in these offences."
The report also revealed that the appropriate employment practices were not fully adhered to during the recruitment of Leat.
However it did state that even if the recruitment practices had been closely followed, it was possible Leat - who had been police checked when appointed - would have still got the job.
OFSTED inspectors also failed to identify any issues at the school during a visit in 2009, with inspectors noting how 'pupils felt exceptionally safe and secure because they know that staff have their well being at heart and are always prepared to listen, help and take action.
OFSTED said it was unable to provide evidence on which the judgements were based as records are not retained for more than six months.
The board has come up with six areas of learning in the review, covering historical concerns, handling of complaints, disciplinary and child protection matters, the use of technology in schools, employment practice in the school and the selection of prospective teachers, the creation of a safe environment and a culture for children and young people and child protection training for staff and governors.
The recommendations will apply to schools across the district.
In the report it said: "In terms of safeguarding, parents of children at the school rightly expected their children would be cared for and kept safe.
"Procedures were not followed and this prevented the correct action from being taken.
"Concerns were not followed up and this led to children not being protected from Nigel Leat.
"This was a gross failure of responsibility.
"What the serious case review report clearly shows is that a culture of safeguarding children at the school needed to be much stronger."
The serious case review makes 32 recommendations - which will now be implemented - all of which have been accepted by the board.
Mr Oliver added: "This action plan will remain a priority on the board's agenda until the recommendations have been implemented."
Mr Oliver recommended that the review should now be read by every head teacher, chair of governors and safeguarding boards across the country.
The review has also been submitted to education watchdog OFSTED.