East Sussex: Lessons To Be Learned

This is a Statement Issued by the East Sussex Local Safeguarding Children Board on 16th Dec 2013

There are lessons to be learned from the way professionals responded to concerns raised about a possible relationship between an East Sussex teacher and a pupil, an official review has found.

The multi-agency review, carried out by the East Sussex Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), was launched after the incident and prior to the teacher being jailed for child abduction and other sexual offences earlier this year.

The report, anonymised to protect the identity of the young person concerned, has been published today (Mon 16th) by the LSCB. It shows that while established safeguarding procedures are in place, there are lessons to be learned from how well those procedures were followed.

The chair of the East Sussex LSCB, Cathie Pattison said: “I felt very strongly there needed to be a multi-agency review of this case. It was a serious case of abuse of a young person who was abducted from her family and I was sure there would be learning not just for the agencies directly involved but also more widely. I was also aware that the young person’s family wanted a thorough review.

“The report shows opportunities were missed to intervene sooner and more robustly. We need to do more to make sure established safeguarding procedures are followed correctly in schools, that records are kept when safeguarding concerns are raised, that young people are listened to and that families are involved when issues arise.

Mrs Pattison said the report contained recommendations for improvements to various agencies including East Sussex County Council, Sussex Police and especially the school concerned.

The main lessons, the SCR report says, arise from the way staff at the school repeatedly failed to see the evidence of the teacher’s misconduct or to hear the concerns raised by pupils. 

Those concerns were repeatedly dismissed and the school appeared to have a default position of supporting a colleague, and a reluctance to believe that he might be an abuser. The report goes on to try to identify and understand the factors which contributed to these inadequate responses.

The review also concludes that the young person concerned was not spoken to privately or talked to in a supportive way which could have given her the chance to disclose the abuse at an earlier stage, and there was a failure to involve her mother in responding to concerns raised.

In terms of process improvements it also found that there could have been a more thorough child protection strategy discussion, that initial enquiries by police should have been carried out by the police child protection team, that children’s social care services may have ended their involvement too speedily, and that there were weaknesses in how agencies recorded information – in spite of guidance provided by the local authority.

Mrs Pattison said: “The purpose of any serious case review is to identify what lessons can be learned about the way professionals and organisations work individually and together to safeguard children. This review has done exactly that and provides a good basis for improving practice and processes. The lessons for the school in this case are actually lessons for all schools to take note of.

She added that the LSCB had produced a detailed action plan to address the recommendations the review has made for the agencies involved. The LSCB was now working with all agencies to implement that plan, and many of the recommendations in the review had already been implemented, she said.

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