School acts to allay parents' concerns

PUBLISHED: 06:12 30 March 2006 | UPDATED: 09:03 24 May 2010

OVER 100 parents turned up to a meeting at Sidcot School to hear reassurances about how it is run. Allegations were made about the school in a letter written by teacher Andrew Counsell which was distributed to hundreds of parents. Mr Counsell was recently

OVER 100 parents turned up to a meeting at Sidcot School to hear reassurances about how it is run.Allegations were made about the school in a letter written by teacher Andrew Counsell which was distributed to hundreds of parents. Mr Counsell was recently sacked after sending the letters out.Among the claims was that Criminal Record Bureau checks had not been carried out on all members of staff.Mr Counsell also raised allegations of sex abuse with the private school in Winscombe. A former teacher, who left the school some time ago, was arrested by the police and released on bail.Headteacher John Walmsley said: "It was a very positive meeting where we were able to reassure parents."CRB checks have always been done at the school."A police officer was at the meeting who is also a parent. I am confident in our procedures but I have asked him to have a look at them to give an independent point of view. He is not doing this as a police officer but as a parent."Last year we had a social services inspection and it said enhanced Criminal Record Bureau checks on all staff files were methodically undertaken."Chris Gould, a parent of a child at the school, is a chief superintendent with Avon and Somerset police and a founder and director of the Child Safe charity, an organisation set up to protect children.Mr Gould said: "The school initially approached the national Criminal Records Bureau with a view to it doing an audit of its procedures. But the timescale would have been four to five years. I was approached by the school to have an independent look to see what happened in the past and where they are now. I am happy to do that."I felt reassured as a parent by the meeting. With the CRB checks the school has gone beyond what it is legally required to do."School committee chairman Jefferson Horsley said: "The school council will be having its own inquiry into the whole affair and looking at child protection, procedural issues, whistle blowing and appointments of staff."Mr Counsell says he stands by the claims he made in the letter to parents.

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