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School failed to protect pupil, says case review

20 December 2013


Jailed: Jeremy Forrest arrives for sentencing at Lewes Crown Court, in June

Jailed: Jeremy Forrest arrives for sentencing at Lewes Crown Court, in June

BISHOP Bell Church of England School missed multiple opportunities to protect a pupil who was eventually abducted out of the country by her teacher, a sharply critical serious-case review (SCR) has found.

The review, published on Monday, was commissioned by the chair of the East Sussex Local Safeguarding Children Board in January, three months after the abducted pupil - referred to in the report as Child G - was found in Bordeaux with Jeremy Forrest, a 30-year-old maths teacher at Bishop Bell C of E School, Eastbourne (News, 5 October 2012). In June, Mr Forrest was jailed for five-and-a-half years for child ab- duction and five counts of sexual activity with a child (News, 28 June). Child G was 14 years old when the relationship began, and 15 when they left the country.

The report found that evidence of an inappropriate relationship first emerged in February 2012, during a school trip to America, on which Mr Forrest was present.

In July, two former students reported concerns about the relationship. Two months later, the father of another pupil contacted the police, reporting that Child G had an inappropriate photograph of Mr Forrest on her phone. This led to an investigation under formal child-protection procedures. Two days later, Child G was reported missing. They were apprehended in France just over a week later.

The review is critical of the school's failure to listen to voices of concern. "The response to the situation appears to have been determined entirely from the perspective of a teacher at risk of false allegations," it reads. "All the specialist and senior staff in the school seem to have reconstructed events into misconduct by Child G. Mr K became the victim."

A safeguarding review commissioned by the school and completed in April did not find evidence of any "significant or systemic failings". But the SCR concludes that some of the failings it identifies are "both significant and systemic".

In a letter sent on Monday to the lead member for children's services, Sylvia Tidy, and the interim director of children's services at East Sussex County Council, Ged Rowney, the Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, wrote: "For a school so comprehensively to fail to protect a vulnerable teenager from a manipulative adult . . . is an abrogation of leadership and responsibility."

On Monday, Terry Boatwright, executive head teacher at Bishop Bell, said that many of the recommendations had already been implemented.

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