Stanbridge Earls School, Hants
Stanbridge Earls School ‘failed to protect vulnerable girls’
A special needs school failed to protect some of its vulnerable girls following allegations of sexual assault between pupils, a serious case review has found.
The school in question, Stanbridge Earls, near Romsey, closed in 2014.
Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board’s report states police and the county’s children’s services “worked well” dealing with “complex events” there.
But it said vulnerable girls were not “adequately protected” by the school.
It described an “additional complexity” because “boys outnumbered girls [153 to 36] and the potential consequences of that were not adequately recognised”.
Chair Maggie Blyth said the report emphasised the “importance of all schools, but particularly residential and independent schools, placing a high priority on ensuring that children are properly safeguarded”.
Pupils ‘abseiled naked as teachers watched’ in latest saga to hit boarding school behind ‘Lord of the Flies’ abuse claims
- Three male pupils ‘abseiled naked’ on Stanbridge Earls School trip to Oban
- Police investigation was already underway into separate sex abuse claims
- Special needs school announced it will close in December after allegations
- One mother compared behaviour at school to novel Lord of the Flies
- Tribunal found pupil suffered ‘appalling abuse’ at hands of another student
Pupils at a school which is the focus of ‘Lord of the Flies’ abuse claims abseiled naked while teachers watched, it has been reported.
Stanbridge Earls School, which is currently embroiled in a police investigation into alleged sexual abuse of pupils, announced yesterday it will close in December and another school has been lined up to take over the site.
But today it was revealed that Ofsted inspectors carrying out emergency visits to the school were told three male pupils had been naked during a school trip to the Rua Fiola Island Exploration Centre in Oban.
Inspectors heard two female members of staff watched while the boys abseiled and allegedly took photographs of them during the May half-term trip.
The incident has been reported to police by the special needs school’s headteacher Maggie McMurray, the Sunday Times reported.
The Department for Education confirmed the county council and police were investigating the situation at the school, where a 15-year-old girl was sexually abused by fellow pupils.
A spokesman said: ‘We have just received advice from Ofsted following an inspection that took place last week.
‘Ministers are studying that advice and will announce their decisions about regulatory action very soon. It would be wrong to take any decisions until we have studied their findings, but all options remain open.’
The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has opened a
statutory inquiry into Stanbridge Earls School.
A spokesman for the adventure centre told MailOnline that it had ‘an unblemished record’ for child protection in the 38 years it had been run as a family business.
‘Considering the special needs nature of the school, our on-site instructor was looking for a lead from the two female members of the teaching staff who were present throughout this incident,’ he added.
‘While neither intervened, he saw his primary concern as being for the boys’ health and safety during the climb.
‘This was an awkward and very regrettable incident but there was certainly no harm done to the children.
‘This was an awkward and very regrettable incident but there was certainly no harm done to the children.’
– Spokesman for the Rua Fiola Island Exploration Centre in Oban
‘We have however contacted the police about the incident to offer our full support on any follow up inquiries.
‘We are also further clarifying our existing guidelines for our staff to ensure intervening action is taken should we ever see a repeat of an incident like this in future.’
On Friday Mrs McMurray wrote to parents announcing Stanbridge Earls’ planned closure.
She said the school, in Hampshire, had ‘for some considerable time now been experiencing many difficulties… most of which are a legacy of past events’.
She said the school had seen a drop in numbers after a number of local authorities stopped placing pupils at the school, leading it into financial difficulties.
Ofsted was due to report on its findings following an ‘unannounced inspection’ last week, according to investigative news website Exaro.
The school’s announcement comes as a major police investigation continues into allegations that a 15-year-old girl was raped and a 12-year-old girl stripped and sexually assaulted by male pupils.
Detectives are also investigating if the school perverted the course of justice, amid claims pupils were ordered not to report incidents to anyone outside the school.
The mother of the 15-year-old has compared behaviour at the school to the classic novel Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, in which children stranded on an island without adults torment each other with savage cruelty.
‘Financial difficulties’: The headteacher said it had seen a drop in numbers after a number of local authorities stopped placing pupils there
Earlier this year a tribunal ruled that the school had discriminated against a pupil, who suffered ‘appalling abuse’ at the hands of another student.
It found a number of staff members failed to tell the youngster’s parents that she had complained of pain in an intimate part of her body.
And it said the school had been ‘unsystematic, unprofessional, ad hoc and completely inadequate’ when it came to protecting her.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal awarded the girl’s family £85,000 after ruling the school failed to respond properly to her allegations of sexual abuse by other boys at the school.
The tribunal was damning of the school’s then head teacher Peter Trythall, saying he ‘failed to recognise that non-consensual sex is actually rape.’
Mr Trythall stepped down from his role in April this year and was replaced by Mrs McMurray.
Stanbridge Earls is an independent special school for 190 children with learning difficulties. It takes boarders aged 10 to 19, and charges between £25,000 and £39,000 a year.
One parent told Exaro: ‘I hope that lessons can truly be learnt. We are delighted, although saddened, at the school’s closure.’
The new school is due to be a sister establishment to Gard’ner Memorial’s More House School, in Surrey.
Inquiry launched into police handling of school case
AN internal inquiry has been launched into whether police involved in previous investigations into sex abuse claims at a Hampshire special school should be disciplined.
As previously reported, a team from the force’s public protection department have set up Operation Flamborough to probe allegations made by two former pupils from the Stanbridge Earls School.
Hampshire police said they want find out whether any “further criminal offences” have been committed against the known victims or other children attending the £39,000-a-year school near Romsey.
They will then assess the findings of a special educational needs and disability tribunal which found the school, which specialises in teaching children with dyslexia, failed to protect a vulnerable girl from “appalling abuse” at the hands of another pupil.
The Charity Commission has also launched an inquiry amid “serious concerns” about the way staff dealt with initial allegations.
Now the force said it will shine a spotlight on the handling of its own investigation into previous allegations as part of its case review.
A spokesman said: “Hampshire Constabulary’s professional standards department is considering whether a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) or any other internal disciplinary options may be required as a result of the review.”
The force also remained silent on the number of victims that could be involved.
This comes as 30 parents have formed a campaign group to keep the school open after education bosses threatened to close the facility if urgent improvements were not made before its next inspection.
Worried parents contacted the Daily Echo about their fears for the future education for the children of their children, many whom have complex educational needs.
Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes has also stepped in by calling for “a period of calm” so children can concentrate on exams.
As reported, the tribunal found earlier this year that the school had discriminated against a girl and that a number of staff members failed to tell the youngster’s parents that she had complained of pain in an intimate part of her body.
Head teacher Peter Trythall has been accused of “a failure of responsibility”, while the Nursing and Midwifery Council confirmed that school nurse Melanie Bavington was under investigation.
The vulnerable youngster was found to have suffered “appalling abuse” at the hands of another student while the school was slammed by panel members for being “unsystematic, unprofessional, ad hoc and completely inadequate” when it came to protecting the youngster.
The tribunal later ruled that the school should pay the family £86,000 for costs they built up during the proceedings.
School bosses have vowed to work with outside agencies to make urgent improvements.
School of scandal: “Abuse” at school where soldiers send their kids
23 Mar 2013
Sex abuse probe at £39,000-a-year Stanbridge Earls School in rural Hampshire which specialises in teaching pupils with learning difficulties
An independent special school where Ministry of Defence families send their children is at the centre of a sex abuse probe, the Sunday People has revealed.
Grade II listed Stanbridge Earls School in rural Hampshire has been a favourite of the military for decades and takes boarders aged ten to 19.
The school specialises in teaching pupils with learning difficulties like dyslexia and dyscalculia and charges between £27,000 and £39,000 a year.
It lies in idyllic countryside, with Tudor buildings, lakes, and acres of land But the tranquil setting has been shattered by allegations that staff covered up sexual assault among pupils.
The school was taken off the MOD’s approved list in January, following a devasting tribunal report documenting serious sexual assault.
The Sunday People can reveal that Hampshire Police have now set up an investigation called Operation Flamborough to probe the allegations.
Detectives are understood to be investigating at least two incidents of alleged sexual abuse by pupils on two girls. Schools watchdog OFSTED, the General Medical Council and the Crown Prosecution Service are also conducting inquiries.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal found serious flaws in management and procedures at the school in January.
Staff were aware of this but failed to report it or follow proper procedures. A girl who claimed she was sexually abused was represented at the tribunal by solicitor Melinda Nettleton. Mrs Nettleton said: “There has been a systematic problem at the school and staff have failed to recognise that. There appears to have been no understanding of the seriousness of what has happened.”
The tribunal awarded costs of £85,000 to the girl’s family.
Its damning report found the school had failed to protect one of its most vulnerable pupils and she had been discriminated against after she was excluded following the allegation.
The school claimed she had breached rules prohibiting engagement in sexual activity.
But the tribunal found systems put in place to make sure pupils were looked after had been “unsystematic, unprofessional, ad hoc and completely inadequate” It said senior staff, including the head, deputy head, head of care, nurse and doctor, failed to properly respond to the girl’s accusations.
Head Peter Trythall was accused of conduct “bordering on contempt for statutory duties”. The report said he claimed he was “unaware” that non-consensual sex was rape. He later claimed his comments were taken out of context.
The girl, 15 at the time and now 17, suffers from autism and has the social skills of a seven-year-old. She was said to have been groomed with sexually explicit texts before being abused by an older boy.
She complained to staff of “pain down below”. They discovered a genital injury and the girl told them she had had a sexual encounter. No one from the school told her mother and father.
The allegations came to light in July 2011, when the girl returned from school at the end of term and told her mother she had been raped. Solicitors for the parents obtained the girl’s medical records from the school. They confirmed she had shown sexual injuries during a medical examination.
Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, raised the matter in Parliament and demanded talks on measures to improve the situation at the school.
Labour MP Tom Watson vowed to raise the safety of pupils at the school with Education Secretary Michael Gove. He said: “I am calling on Michael Gove to urgently examine the safeguarding issues that surround the school.
“The investigation needs to be thorough and should be given all the resources it needs. It is clear from the tribunal report there have been a number of serious failures by individuals and agencies – and they must be urgently addressed. Everything possible needs to be done to make sure what happened to this young girl can never happen again.”
The school expressed “deep regret” for failing the pupil. It said staff had been working to improve safety and had put a plan in place, with an external expert overseeing changes.
“It added: “The case that gave rise to the tribunal was distressing, complicated and unusual. It was in no way illustrative of the way the school normally meets the needs of its pupils. The school has consistently been rated outstanding.”
A police spokesman said: “We are conducting a comprehensive review into previous allegations involving Stanbridge Earls School in Romsey.
“We are in contact with the families of the two girls who previously made allegations of abuse and are updating them with the progress of the review. The review is ongoing.”