Paedophile teacher - parents criticise school
PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 May 2011
PARENTS at a school where a teacher sexually abused youngsters for five years first found out about the man's arrest through articles published in the Mercury - it has been claimed.
The paper broke the devastating story of how Nigel Leat had been accused of abusing children in his classroom the day after his first court appearance in December, but allegedly before parents had been told about the charges.
Although the school has been texting mums and dads in recent months to let them know of developments in the case, parents say they were were officially told of the charges at a meeting with council and police representatives three days after Leat’s arrest and after the horrifying news had hit national headlines.
Parents have also asked about the nature of previous warnings regarding the teacher’s conduct towards students before his arrest, but say they have not received any proper answers.
A previous court hearing revealed how there had been two separate concerns raised about Leat’s behaviour towards pupils well before he was charged, but internal investigations failed to find any serious problems at that time.
One parent who contacted the Mercury this week spoke of her frustration at finding out any proper details through the Mercury and not her child’s school.
She says: “We have asked the school what the nature of these previous warnings is and we were told they couldn’t discuss it because of the case. Well, he has pleaded guilty now.
“We received a text to say the sentencing hearing was going ahead, but after it had finished – we think that’s because they didn’t want us to turn up at the hearing.
“If my child fell down at school and hurt themselves they would call me first before giving them medical treatment – we should have been called as soon as they knew there was a problem.
“Because we knew about other things that had happened at the school that week we put two and two together when we saw the Mercury article.
“The reputation of the school has come before the welfare of the children in some respects.
“We would like the school to sit down with us and tell us exactly what has gone on here, including what happened with these previous warnings and why we weren’t informed sooner.”
A judge ruled two weeks ago that the 50-year-old teacher should be identified after he pleaded guilty to 36 charges at Bristol Crown Court, including one count of attempted rape, 31 of different types of sexual assault on a child, one of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and one of voyeurism.
He also admitted a single charge of possessing extreme child abuse images, and one of possessing indecent images of children.
Leat’s employment has already been terminated by North Somerset Council, whose expert support staff have been working to support victims and parents.
The independent Local Safeguarding Children Board is carrying out a serious case review at the school, which we cannot name for legal reasons, and it is expected to address how it handled previous comments about the teacher from parents and pupils, the recruitment selection involved there and the training of Leat.
North Somerset Council says it would be inappropriate to comment on claims by parents this week while the review is ongoing.
The court case has now been adjourned to allow psychiatric reports to be carried out, with a sentencing date scheduled for Bristol Crown Court on June 10.