Government asked to prevent ‘another Hillside’

EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove will be asked to scrutinise the Hillside First School review findings to ensure all UK schools have the right safeguarding measures in place to protect children.

Weston MP John Penrose says he will be seeking Government assurances that steps will be taken in the wake of Nigel Leat’s horrifying abuse.

Leat was jailed last year for a string of sexual abuse offences against his pupils, and a detailed inquiry showed 30 warnings about his behaviour were ignored over 14 years. The serious case review highlighted 32 different areas where improvements could be made to prevent a repeat of the events at Hillside.

They include improving external scrutiny of schools, better record-keeping regarding complaints, education of teachers and governors to spot warning signs, and creation of a school environment which targets safety as well as academic achievement.

All 32 of the recommendations have been accepted by North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board, and Mr Penrose wants Mr Gove to consider rolling them out to schools across the UK.

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Mr Penrose said: “Nigel Leat’s abuse of young children is every parent’s worst nightmare. Right now, people want to be reassured their children are safe and that this kind of abuse can’t happen again.

“The serious case review shows that Hillside school didn’t apply the processes and training to keep pupils safe when it mattered. People were afraid of speaking out and, on the few occasions when they did, were told to keep quiet by school managers.

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“We need to make sure that the terrible events at Hillside can’t be repeated anywhere else, so I’m taking the issue up personally with the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

“It isn’t just a question of having the right rules and regulations; the culture of every school needs to be right, so the rules are policed properly by teachers who follow the highest possible standards of professional behaviour.

“Most schools are well-run and perfectly safe, but if we can reduce the risks of another Nigel Leat getting away with it, then we should.”

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