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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools Investigation Report

Contents

B.4: Clifton College, Headlands School and Hillside First School

98. In the Phase 2 hearing, the Inquiry heard evidence relating to incidents of child sexual abuse and related concerns in three schools: Clifton College, an independent boarding school; Headlands School, a maintained day secondary school; and Hillside First School, a maintained infant school.

Clifton College

99. Clifton College is an independent boarding school in Clifton, Bristol. It has a nursery for children aged 2 to 4, a pre-preparatory school for children aged 4 to 8 and a preparatory school for pupils aged 8 to 13 (collectively known as the Prep School) as well as an Upper School for girls and boys from 13 to 19.[1] Clifton College offers boarding for pupils from the age of 8, although over two-thirds of its 1,240 pupils are day pupils.[2] There are 211 international students at the school, most of whom are in the Upper School.[3]

Stephen Johnston

100. In 2008, a former teacher, Stephen Johnston, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for indecent assault and buggery of a pupil in the early 1990s. Johnston taught French at the Prep School from 1988 to 1994. He groomed the pupil, RS-A336, inviting him to his flat to drink beer and watch pornographic videos, before gradually subjecting him to increasingly serious sexual abuse. The abuse took place over several years, beginning when RS-A336 was 13 and ending when he was 16. RS-A336 did not tell anyone at Clifton College about the abuse.[4] Complaints were made about Johnston by other staff in the early 1990s. In 1993, the headteacher received a letter from a staff member and neighbour of Johnston, complaining about the number of teenage boys going in and out of Johnston’s flat, which was called a “den of vice”. The headteacher responded by letter that “what happens in a private house which is not part of the School is really nothing to do with me as Headmaster, nor, I suppose … [to] a member of Council[5] (the College Council was the governing body of the school).[6]

101. The criminal trial of Johnston was monitored by the insurers of Clifton College. The headteacher, Mr Mark Moore, issued a press release upon Johnston’s conviction condemning his behaviour.[7] No review of safeguarding or other action was taken at that time. The school did not make contact with the local authority or the barring authorities regarding the case. A civil claim by RS-A336 against Clifton College was settled out of court in 2012.[8]

Jonathan Thomson-Glover

102. In August 2015, Jonathan Thomson-Glover pleaded guilty to 36 offences related to making or possessing indecent images of children. He was sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment and was ordered to sign the sex offenders register on an indefinite basis. Thomson-Glover had taught German at Clifton College Upper School since 1990, and since 1997 had been the housemaster of a day house for boys aged 13 to 18 (House 1).[9]

103. Between 1998 and 2014, Thomson-Glover filmed Clifton College students without their knowledge, using cameras hidden in the showers, toilets and study rooms of House 1, and also in the bathroom of his holiday home in Cornwall, where he invited groups of House 1 boys for trips during school holidays. Thomson-Glover recorded footage of the boys in states of undress: showering, using the toilet, masturbating and sometimes engaged in sexual activity with female students.[10]

104. Thomson-Glover came to the attention of the police as a result of a National Crime Agency investigation which identified that he had shared indecent images of children online. He was arrested on 5 August 2014 and his homes were searched and computers analysed. As well as indecent images of children that he had accessed online and downloaded, police found 330 video tapes containing 2,500 hours of footage of Clifton College students who had been filmed covertly (which did not appear to have been shared online).[11]

105. The police informed the headteacher and the relevant LADO of the circumstances of Thomson-Glover’s arrest. Thomson-Glover resigned from the school the next day.[12] The headteacher, Mr Moore, told parents of House 1 boys by letter on 15 August 2014 that Thomson-Glover had resigned for “personal reasons”,[13] although he was well aware that the reason for the resignation was because he had been arrested for offences relating to indecent images of children.

106. During strategy meetings, safeguarding professionals from the local authority, the ISI and the police expressed concerns about the safeguarding regime at Clifton College. As a result, the school’s governing body, the College Council, agreed to relieve the headteacher and the DSL of their safeguarding roles and to undertake a detailed review of safeguarding at the school.[14] In September 2015, Mr Moore agreed to resign, leaving in December 2015.[15] He faced no disciplinary action.[16] He was eventually referred to the National College for Teaching and Leadership in August 2017.[17]

107. After Thomson-Glover was sentenced for the offences at Clifton College, police received allegations from two former pupils of the school where he had taught before Clifton College. When they were both about 12 years old, in around 1989/1990, Thomson-Glover took the boys on a trip to his Cornwall holiday home, where he masturbated in front of the two boys and encouraged them to masturbate in his presence. In the summer of 2016, Thomson-Glover pleaded guilty to four offences of indecency with children in relation to these incidents of sexual abuse[18] and received a further sentence of six months’ imprisonment concurrent to the sentence he was serving for the offences at Clifton College.[19]

108. In 2016, the governing body of the school commissioned an independent review to investigate the conduct of Thomson-Glover during his time at Clifton College and to assess the effectiveness of the safeguarding regime at the school. The report by Penny Jones (former Deputy Director of Independent Education and School Governance at the Department for Education) was published in August 2016. It was critical of the safeguarding arrangements at the school, identifying failures to appropriately report or act on concerns about the conduct of Thomson-Glover. The report concluded that the governors of the school had failed to exercise effective oversight of safeguarding and had failed to hold the headteacher to account.[20]

Headlands School

109. Headlands School is a large secondary school in Bridlington, which had a student population in the early 2000s of around 1,400 boys and girls aged 11 to 18. It is under the control of the local authority, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.[21] Mr Anthony Halford was the headteacher from 1991 until his retirement in 2004. Dr Stephen Rogers took over as headteacher from September 2004 to October 2008. Between 2006 and 2009, four members of staff were convicted of sexual offences against pupils at the school, committed between 2001 and 2008.

Steven Edwards

110. In February 2007, Steven Edwards was convicted of a number of sexual offences against three female pupils between 2001 and 2003. Edwards had been appointed as a science teacher at Headlands School in around 1996.[22] He resigned from the school in April 2004 to teach at a different school[23] but returned to teach at Headlands School for six weeks on a temporary basis in February 2005.[24]

111. Edwards sexually abused RS-A309 when she was 15. He gave her his personal email address when she was 14 and after messaging each other for a period of time they began meeting up outside school when she was 15. Sexual activity took place in his car, progressing from kissing to penetrative sexual activity and intercourse.[25] The parents of RS-A309 became suspicious about their daughter’s contact with Edwards and confronted him one weekend. Edwards contacted the headteacher, Mr Halford, saying that the parents of RS-A309 wanted to go to the police. Mr Halford arranged for a meeting to take place at his home between the parents and Mr and Mrs Edwards.[26] At the meeting, the parents told Mr Halford that Edwards had kissed their daughter.[27] Mr Halford told the parents of RS-A309 that Edwards would no longer teach their daughter and they would not have contact in school.[28] Mr Halford did not place any notes about the allegations or the meeting on Edwards’ file. The incident was not referred to the local authority or any other outside agencies.[29]

112. Edwards targeted RS-A312 when she was 13 years old, giving her his email address and encouraging her to contact him. They communicated for six months before Edwards arranged to meet her outside school. From 2002, when RS-A312 was 14, Edwards regularly sexually abused her in his car, rapidly progressing from kissing and touching to engaging in sexual intercourse. The sexual abuse often took place in Edwards’ car but also on several occasions in the disabled toilets at Headlands School.[30] No concerns regarding Edwards’ conduct towards RS-A312 appear to have been raised at the school at the time.

113. Edwards first arranged to meet RS-A307 outside school one weekend in November 2003 when she was 14, having communicated with her for some time over MSN instant messenger. They went jogging together to a secluded area where Edwards kissed her.[31] The mother of RS-A307 was very concerned that her daughter was attempting to meet a teacher outside of school and made a referral to the local authority. A few days later a strategy meeting was convened, which was attended by the headteacher, Mr Halford. The local authority strongly advised Mr Halford to suspend Edwards pending the investigation but he declined to do so.[32] The police spoke to Edwards at the school. Both RS-A307 and Edwards denied any improper contact and no further action was taken at that time.[33]

Ian Blott

114. Ian Blott was the head of art at Headlands School, having joined the school as an art teacher in 1973. In October 2005, Blott told the headteacher, Dr Rogers, that he had been in an inappropriate sexual relationship for some time with a sixth-form pupil, RS-A303. RS-A303’s mother had discovered the abuse and told Blott that if he did not tell the headteacher about the sexual abuse she would report him to the police.[34] Dr Rogers suspended Blott and notified the local authority, and a criminal investigation commenced which eventually led to Blott’s prosecution and conviction.[35] In 2006, Blott pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity with RS-A303 when she was under 16 years of age and engaging in sexual activity whilst in a position of trust in relation to RS-A303 when she was over 16. He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.[36]

115. Blott had begun paying special attention to RS-A303 in art classes when she was 14. Blott first had sex with her when she was 15, on a school trip. For over two years, until October 2005, Blott met RS-A303 regularly outside school and engaged in sexual activity with her.[37] On several occasions, Blott also kissed RS-A303 and touched her sexually in the art cupboard at Headlands School.

116. In November 2004, a friend of RS-A303 told the head of sixth form that RS-A303 was in an inappropriate relationship with Blott. This was reported to the headteacher, Dr Rogers. RS-A303 was questioned by the head of sixth form but did not make a disclosure of sexual abuse at that time. Dr Rogers did not refer the allegation to the local authority.[38] Blott continued to sexually abuse RS-A303 until her mother became aware of the abuse in October 2005, leading to Blott’s confession to Dr Rogers and his arrest.

117. During the police investigation into Blott, two former pupils of Headlands School came forward with information. RS-A332 told police that, in 2000–2001, when she was in the sixth form, Blott had sent sexually explicit text messages to her and touched her bottom several times in class. She told a female teacher, who did not report the behaviour. RS-A332 decided to ignore Blott as she did not want any problems with her A-levels.[39] RS-A328 had been targeted by Blott in the 1980s, when she was studying A-level art at Headlands School. Blott first had sex with her on a school trip, after which they regularly met up outside of school and engaged in sexual activity over a period of two years. Blott was controlling and possessive and whenever RS-A328 tried to have relationships with boys her own age he penalised her by giving her art work low grades.[40]

118. While Blott was on remand awaiting trial, he gave the police the names of several current and former members of Headlands School staff whom he alleged may have engaged in sexual activity with children at the school. Fourteen staff or former staff of Headlands School were investigated by Humberside Police, including Steven Edwards, as well as two former Headlands School teachers who had gone on to teach at other schools where they committed sexual offences against pupils.

119. Concerns about the safeguarding regime at Headlands School caused the East Riding of Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board to commence a major enquiry in January 2006, which published its final report in April 2008.[41] It found deficiencies in safeguarding at the school under the leadership of the former headteacher, Mr Halford. It also made 11 recommendations to strengthen safeguarding in East Riding schools and to improve multi-agency working where allegations were made against staff.

Lindsey Collett

120. In February 2008, Lindsey Collett, a cover supervisor at Headlands School, was arrested following a disclosure made to the headteacher. Dr Rogers referred the matter to the local authority and suspended Collett.[42] RS-A301 had been groomed for some months by Collett, who had offered to give him additional tuition after school hours. She gave RS-A301 lifts home and on at least one occasion hugged and kissed him in her car. In August 2008, Collett pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child in abuse of a position of trust in respect of kissing RS-A301 and she received a conditional discharge of 12 months.[43]

Christopher Reen

121. Another cover supervisor at the school, Christopher Reen, was arrested in October 2008, following the school’s referral of an allegation to the LADO. Reen ran a sports club in Bridlington attended by some Headlands School pupils, including RS-A302. Reen obtained RS-A302’s phone number from her registration records at the club. He contacted RS-A302 and arranged to meet her during the school summer holidays in 2008. Sexual activity first took place in his car, and continued for three or four months, quickly progressing from kissing to full sexual intercourse at his home and at the sports club. It was evident from sexually explicit text messages and photographs Reen sent to RS-A302 that he had first had sex with her when she was 15 years old.[44]

122. In October 2008, a friend of RS-A302 became aware of the abusive relationship and reported her concerns to a member of staff at the school, who reported the allegation to the headteacher. Dr Rogers immediately referred the matter to the LADO and the police interviewed RS-A302 the following day.[45] In June 2009, Reen pleaded guilty to an offence of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust, relating to sexual activity when RS-A302 was 16, but denied that he had engaged in sexual activity before she had turned 16. He eventually pleaded guilty in February 2010 to 6 counts of sexual activity with a child, relating to sexual abuse when RS-A302 was 15 years old. He was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment.[46]

Hillside First School

123. Hillside First School was a maintained infant school for children aged from four to eight. The Inquiry considered the period between 1995 and 2010, when Nigel Leat taught at the school. During this period, the school had around 120 pupils, 6 teachers and 3 teaching assistants. Between 1995 and 2001, the headteacher was Ms Susan Bolt. Between 2001 and 2011, the headteacher was Mr Christopher Hood. Ms Michelle Bamford was appointed as deputy headteacher in 2003.

124. Leat began teaching at the school in 1995. From at least 2003, and almost certainly earlier, Leat was known to have “favourites”, pupils whom he favoured and would allow to carry out tasks for him.[47] At least 10 members of staff gave evidence to the police following Leat’s arrest that it was “common knowledge” that he had favourites. A teacher who started work at the school in around 2006 stated during her police interview:

Since I joined the school it seemed to always be known and common knowledge that Nigel had favourite pupils. It was something that was often commented on by staff and even the dinner ladies. It did cause me some concern but as it was going on already when I joined the school I felt that it was just common knowledge and accepted.”[48]

125. Leat was well liked by children and parents. RS-H2, the mother of RS-A320 who was sexually abused by Leat, said that at the time she thought he was “amazing” and that “I thought he was – he still is probably the best teacher she’s ever had”.[49] Michelle Bamford, deputy headteacher at the school, stated that “Leat manipulated everyone to think he was a ‘nice, easy-going’, disorganised, slightly chaotic, ‘techno-phobe’ who loved working with children and helping them develop”.[50]

126. In April 2004, RS-H4 reported to Ms Bamford that a friend had told her that Leat had shown a picture of a naked man in a lesson and had told the children not to tell their parents about it. She also told Ms Bamford that she thought that Leat was too tactile with the children in his class. Ms Bamford made a note of these concerns and reported them to the headteacher, Mr Hood.[51] An investigation concluded that the image of the naked person was present on all the laptops in the school as it had been part of a PSHE lesson plan for older primary students. Mr Hood spoke to Leat about the concern that he was too tactile with the pupils. Both Mr Hood and Ms Bamford agreed when giving evidence that the concern that Leat was too tactile with female pupils had not been properly considered at the time.[52] In May 2004, RS-H4 followed up on her concerns. She wanted to ask that her relative should not be placed in Leat’s class. She again said that she thought that Leat was “too tactile[53] with the children in his class, particularly the girls, and that he had been giving special attention to one girl in his class. Mr Hood again spoke to Leat and issued a verbal warning.[54]

127. Also in the 2003/04 school year, a teacher reported to Mr Hood that she had found between 15 and 20 photographs of Leat some of which showed Mr Leat in close physical contact with a pupil.[55] No formal record of this concern was made and no action was taken by the headteacher.[56]

128. In the 2004/05 school year, a pupil in Leat’s class informed her mother that Leat had taken a picture of her and her friend on his mobile phone. No formal record was made of this concern. The headteacher spoke to Leat, who denied that he had taken a photograph on his phone. He did not speak to the children. The headteacher then invited the mother to speak to Leat. No further action was taken.[57]

129. At either the end of the school year 2005/06 or during 2006/07, a voluntary classroom assistant saw Leat sitting on a bean bag reading with a child and when he stood up he had an erection. She felt she could not report the incident to the headteacher and that there was a lack of interest from a teacher at the school when she pointed out that a child was sitting on Leat’s lap, so she felt there was no point reporting what she had seen.[58]

130. During a lesson in the 2006/07 school year, the headteacher was observing one of Leat’s lessons and saw a child sitting in front of Leat with her hands up his trouser legs stroking the bottom part of his legs. The headteacher spoke to Leat about this after the lesson but did not make a formal record of it, talk to the child or inform the child’s parents.[59]

131. In the 2007/08 school year, a number of concerns were raised in relation to Leat’s interactions with RS-A320.[60] Five different people expressed concerns about how close Leat was to RS-A320 and how he treated her as a favourite, allowing her, for example, to add the marks to exam papers taken by her class. As a college tutor visiting a trainee teacher in the school observed, and as was described on the record, “the relationship between RS-A320 and Nigel Leat was a bit close for comfort”.[61] Ms Bamford made a written record of the concerns, which she gave to Mr Hood. He decided not to discuss the matter with the LADO. Instead, he discussed the concerns with Leat and gave him a verbal warning.[62] In evidence, Mr Hood said that previous headteachers had taken that approach and he followed their example.[63]

132. RS-A299 said that in the 2008/09 school year she went to see Mr Hood to tell him that “something was happening” with RS-A346 and that RS-A346 had been sick. She did not tell him that Leat had tried to kiss RS-A346, as she had promised her friend she would not tell.[64] No formal record was made of this concern. Mr Hood did not remember RS-A299 and RS-A346 coming to see him.[65]

133. In the autumn term of the 2010/11 school year, a teaching assistant informed Ms Bamford that a child in Leat’s class (RS-A300) had been stimulating herself by rubbing her genitals on the carpet.[66] Ms Bamford informed the headteacher that she was monitoring the situation. No formal record was made and the child’s mother was not informed.[67]

134. In December 2010, RS-H1 contacted the police to say that her daughter, RS-A300, had told her that her teacher, Leat, had been touching her on her “private parts”.[68] This disclosure led to the arrest of Leat at the school and a major police investigation. The police discovered video evidence of the sexual abuse of young girls at Leat’s house. He had memory sticks which contained 30,500 internet images which were classed as indecent, 454 video clips which he had filmed himself and 740 video clips he had downloaded from the internet.[69]

135. The original video footage filmed by Leat showed him sexually abusing young girls in various locations in the school. They were recorded between September 2006 and July 2010. The witness statement of Mr Gregor McGill of the Crown Prosecution Service stated “It appeared that in each academic year Nigel Leat selected a different girl to sexually abuse”.[70] Each video depicted one girl being sexually abused. The abuse consisted variously of Leat rubbing the girl’s genitals or buttocks over and under their underwear, digital vaginal penetration, attempted oral penetration (of RS-A320) and in the case of child D, masturbating Leat to the point of ejaculation.[71] The youngest victim was six years old.

136. Leat was charged with 36 sexual offences, including 1 count of attempted rape of a child under 13, 8 counts of sexual assault of a child under 13 by penetration and 23 counts of sexual assault of a child under 13 with no penetration.[72] In May 2011, Leat pleaded guilty to all 36 counts. Following a court appearance in June 2011, Leat was given an indeterminate prison sentence for public protection, with a minimum term of eight-and-a-half years in prison before he could be considered for release on licence.[73]

137. Mr Hood was suspended in January 2011 and dismissed for gross misconduct in November 2011.[74] Ms Bamford was not suspended and was issued with a formal written warning in November 2011.[75]

138. The North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board commissioned a serious case review following the arrest of Leat,[76] focussing on the period 2000 to 2010. Its January 2012 report noted that there were at least 30 incidents of inappropriate or unprofessional conduct involving Leat which should have been viewed as suspicious.[77] The serious case review stated that it was significant that only 11 of the incidents were reported to either Ms Bamford or Mr Hood.[78]

References

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