Serious case review criticises school

A serious case review has criticised a school in East Sussex for failing to protect a teenage girl from starting a relationship with a teacher.

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School responds to criticism after teacher's relationship with pupil

Staff at a school in Sussex "repeatedly failed" to protect a schoolgirl who was abducted by a teacher - according to a damning report on the Bishop Bell School in Eastbourne.

Jeremy Forrest was jailed for child abduction and sexual offences against a 15-year-old girl. But a Serious Case Review says the maths teacher's colleagues ignored the warning signs and did not listen when other children raised concerns over the relationship.

Our report is followed by an interview with the Executive Headteacher of the school, who apologised for the failings.

Sussex Police respond to serious case review

Detective Superintendent Paul Furnell, of Sussex Police, said the force had noted the need for it to perform an audit in the next six months to establish if Child Protection Team officers are acting appropriately to any allegations.

He added: "Also to carry out a review in the next six months into the requirement and capability for a child protection team detective sergeant to attend all strategy discussions for allegations made against people working with children. These had been identified in our own review of the case."


MP demands action over school failings

Mr Timpson's letter continued: "It is important that students and parents can be confident that those failures have been addressed and all necessary action taken.

"As the accountable people, at officer and political level, for safeguarding in East Sussex, I am writing to you to ask what steps you have taken to assure yourself that the safeguarding practice in the school has significantly improved."

'Inexcusable' that warnings were dismissed

Edward Timpson MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, has written to East Sussex County Council children's services to raise his concerns.

He wrote: "For a school so comprehensively to fail to protect a vulnerable teenager from a manipulative adult, who has been placed by the school in a position of trust, is an abrogation of leadership and responsibility which had terrible consequences for this child and the family."

He added: "The way that school leaders dismissed warnings made by young people about an improper relationship, and the failure to provide any effective support to the child, is inexcusable."

Relationship between teacher and girl began on US trip

Evidence of an inappropriate relationship between Forrest and the girl first surfaced during a school trip to the United States in February 2012.

Two pupils approached the head of the upper school and reported rumours that the girl had a "crush" on Forrest since the trip.

Forrest denied any inappropriate relationship to senior staff and no other agency was involved, the report said.

The report said: "It is striking that it was, overwhelmingly, young people who raised concerns about this situation."

Runaway teacher case attracted worldwide attention

The case of Jeremy Forrest and the girl, referred to in the report as Child G,

attracted worldwide attention after he abducted her to France and they spent

seven days on the run.

They dyed their hair, gave themselves false names on CVs to try to get work, and Forrest threw his mobile phone into the English Channel to prevent its signal betraying their whereabouts.

The report reserves particular criticism for the school, with some staff failing to recognise the child protection implications in some events and believing Forrest was the victim.


Concerns about teacher's contact with girl 'dismissed'

Jeremy Forrest was jailed in June Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Concerns raised by pupils about the growing closeness of teacher Jeremy Forrest and a teenage schoolgirl were 'repeatly dismissed', the report found.

Instead, Bishop Bell School in Eastbourne adopted a position of "intuitively supporting a colleague" in the face of evidence he might be an abuser.

Forrest, who's 31, was jailed in June after being found guilty of sexual activity with a child and for abducting the girl and taking her to France

The report also revealed that the girl, who cannot be named, was never spoken to by school staff in a supportive way.

And the school's failure to involve the girl's mother in responding to events was another "cause for concern" and she was "denied the opportunity to assist her daughter", the report said.

Bishop Bell School in Eastbourne Credit: ITV Meridian
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