Paedophile teacher - school hits back at television show claims

Keith Ruby. Photo: South West News Service

Keith Ruby. Photo: South West News Service - Credit: South West News Service

SCHOOL leaders have hit back at claims they were offered advice and child protection training in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse being brought against a former teacher.

Last month Keith Ruby was convicted of 16 sexual offences against a former pupil at Sidcot School, near Winscombe, seven years after another former teacher, Andrew Counsell, first brought the allegations to light.

The original investigation collapsed in 2006 after Ruby’s victim felt unable to give evidence against him, and North Somerset Council says it raised ‘concerns’ with the school about its response to the allegations.

Mr Counsell first made allegations about possible abuse with former headteacher John Walmsley on October 15, 2005, after he was approached by students. Ruby had left the school in January that year.

Current Sidcot headteacher Iain Kilpatrick said the school had acted to corroborate Mr Counsell’s allegations, but he went to the police on his own on November 3 and the first investigation was launched.

Although that probe collapsed, a second one was launched in March 2011 after the victim decided to come forward. Ruby was finally brought to justice and, last month, was jailed for 10 years.

This week, a spokesman for North Somerset Council said: “We had concerns and advice was given to the school regarding the importance of following child protection procedures and child protection training was also provided for staff.”

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But the school says that, although concerns were raised with Mr Walmsley by the authority back in 2006, it is not true that advice was offered or training started after the allegations were raised.

A school spokesman said: “There was training before and after the event.

“Pat Richards was the senior nurse for child protection for North Somerset children’s service and Sidcot has employed her to conduct child protection courses to staff before the event, and since.

“She was never directed by the council to give training to us as a result of any inquiry into any allegations. Sidcot continued to use her for updated training until her retirement last year.”

During a BBC Inside Out programme about Ruby, which was broadcast on Monday, DCI Richard Kelvey, the investigating officer in the case, said: “Andrew Counsell provided us with information that led to this investigation.

“That information has been very valuable and I do see him as a whistleblower.”

However, following the programme, Mr Kilpatrick said the school ‘strongly refuted the suggestion that Mr Counsell was the sole informant or whistleblower’.

He said the school had decided to verify the information provided by the students to Mr Counsell, who was sacked for gross misconduct in 2006, saying it was not usual practice but was considered prudent to corroborate the teacher’s statement.

He added: “Sidcot School would wish to restate that Andrew Counsell was not dismissed because of bringing the actions of Keith Ruby to the attention of senior management, but for a catalogue of sustained, unprofessional conduct.

“This decision was clearly upheld by an employment tribunal where it was stated that ‘the claimant (Andrew Counsell) was entirely to blame for his own dismissal’.”

Mr Walmsley added: “I feel that Mr Counsell’s motives for going to the police in the first place and later going to the press were more about trying to embarrass the school than protect children.”

The school is now likely to make a formal complaint to Avon and Somerset Constabulary about DCI Kelvey’s remark.