We report on the harrowing story of child abuse of young children at a North Somerset School.
A school teacher has been jailed indefinitely for child abuse, Nigel Leat taught at Hillside First School in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset.
A review has found that he was able to film himself abusing young girls because of a “lamentable failure” by the school management.
At Leat’s trial the court heard that he abused five victims, some as young as six years of age. The trial judge described Leat as a “paedophile of the most sickening order”.
He was charged with a range of child abuse offences including one count of attempted rape, 22 counts of sexually assaulting a child under 13 and eight counts of sexual assault by penetration.
More than 30,000 indecent photographs were found by the police.
The child abuse offences were committed between September 2006 and December 2010, only ceasing when Leat was arrested.
A report was carried out by Hillside First School while Leat he still worked there. It referred to no less than 30 incidents of “inappropriate or unprofessional conduct” involving the teacher, though only 11 of them were formally reported.
North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board commissioned a serious case review which found that the incidents in the school management report included indecent touching, inappropriate lesson content and over-familiarity with children.
Leat’s colleagues advised him that his behaviour was inappropriate and warned him of the risk that he could be accused of professional misconduct.
The child abuse perpetrated by the teacher included taking photographs of pupils on a mobile phone, and kissing and cuddling the children.
Another teacher at Hillside First School also saw Leat in his underpants and a T shirt while getting changed in his classroom.
The case review revealed that school staff had raised “a variety of concerns” about the teacher within a year of him being appointed and during the period of his employment.
The review estimates that 20 pupils were witnesses or victims of child abuse by Leat and described the teacher’s behaviour as typical of grooming activities pursued by adults who are intent on sexually abusing children. However the school failed to recognise that the teacher’s behaviour was consistent with grooming for sexual abuse.
The review made 32 proposals, including a recommendation that the serious case review is read by head teachers and school governors throughout the UK.
The NSPCC Director of Child Protection Advice and Awareness has described the Hillside First School case as “shocking”. “Young children” he said, “were left at the mercy of a determined sex offender in their own school, even though many people had concerns about Nigel Leat’s behaviour.”
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