Vulnerable girl at Stanbridge Earls School sexually abused by student
6:36pm Monday 21st January 2013
A VULNERABLE teenager was groomed with explicit texts and sexually abused by a student, according to a damning report into failures at a special needs school in Hampshire.
Systems in place at Stanbridge Earls School, which should have protected the girl, have been slammed as “unsystematic, unprofessional, ad hoc and completely inadequate”.
Staff failed to tell the youngster’s parents that she had complained of pain “down below” and the school was found to have discriminated against her.
Head teacher Peter Trythall has been accused of “a failure of responsibility” while the Nursing and Midwifery Council has confirmed that the school nurse Melanie Bavington is under investigation.
A number of other staff members were named and criticised in the explosive report, which was drawn up following a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
The school has now spoken of its “deep regret” over the issue.
But the Secretary of State for Education has been asked to consider whether the school’s registration is still justified while the parents may now take further action against those they say have failed their daughter.
The hard-hitting report reveals how “warning signals” about the youngster’s sexual and emotional vulnerability were not acted on properly.
And the tribunal’s panel has raised “grave concerns about the management, multi professional relationships and communication, educational provision and safeguarding” of pupils at the independent school, near Romsey.
Lawyers representing the family have urged Ofsted to reconsider its most recent inspection findings which ruled that the school was “outstanding” in all categories.
The report describes how the girl went to school staff and it became clear she had been involved in a sexual encounter.
But although the school’s doctor and some members of staff were informed, none of them told the parents.
Her mother and father only found out when she told them at a later date that the sex was “non-consensual”.
Hampshire Social Services was informed and they referred the matter to police.
They investigated and passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided not to proceed against two boys because it was not "in the public interest".
The girl's parents are appealing that decision.
The report states how neither the head teacher, deputy head teacher, head of care, nurse or school doctor felt it necessary to organise a strategy meeting to come up with a plan for the youngster.
“This lack of effective coordinated response compounded the errors relating to (the girl’s) care and protection,” the report found.
“A lack of knowledge is claimed by the responsible body as a defence, yet in evidence it is clear that different parts of the organisation had had considerable knowledge about (the girl’s) needs and events as they unfolded, but this was not shared in an effective way.”
The report added: “This failure led to a vulnerable child being taken advantage of by peers.”
Mr Trythall was accused of a “failure or responsibility” when, in an earlier incident, the girl informed him that she had talked of taking her own life.
Despite talking to her and being satisfied she had had no suicidal intent, the report said how “he made no record. He sought no advice. The parents were not informed.”
The school, which caters for young people with learning difficulties, has been ordered to apologise.
The family’s solicitor, Melinda Nettleton, from legal firm SENlegal, called the case “deeply disturbing and troubling” adding that the parents may take legal action against individuals named in the report.
She also called for the Secretary of State for Education to suspend the school’s registration “until it is evident that pupils’ safety is secured”.
She added: “The conduct, the safeguarding failure, the discrimination and the credibility of Mr Trythall and his staff are laid bare in this decision.
“(The girl’s) parents have shown, in my view, enormous courage and dignity during what has been a distressing process to obtain the truth, so they can eventually achieve justice for their disabled daughter and for other children like her.
“They also hope, by publishing the decision, that other victims of sexual abuse and/or their parents which has occurred in schools have the courage to step forward.”