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Commissioner’s response to Bridgend school’s statement on sexual abuse

Commenting on the story, Professor Sally Holland said:

“This is a very disturbing case and my heart goes out to the victims of this abuse, some of whom have lived with the impact of it for decades. It is troubling to learn that past school leaders did not act on concerns expressed by members of school staff. The independent investigation highlights that the abuse was ongoing and continued after the high-profile inquiry into another case by my predecessor, the Clywch Inquiry. That inquiry had clear parallels to this case and eventually led to stronger safeguards in schools, including the requirement for an independent inquiry to be carried out when there are safeguarding concerns about a member of staff.

“There is no excuse for concerns about this teacher’s behaviour not to have been acted upon. Children must feel safe in school and have clear routes to sharing concerns that they have. Staff must also be given the confidence that concerns they express will be heard and acted upon.

“While policies and practices have improved over the years, they are only effective if implemented properly. Abuse of this nature is by its nature secretive and abusers use their power to groom and silence their victims. It is therefore vital that all of us follow up concerns we may have, however small they may seem. If staff in any organisation feel that their concerns are not being heard by management, they can contact my office where they will benefit from legal protections as whistle-blowers.

“I have monitored the steps that the local authority has taken to investigate the case independently and to make plans for action. While it is clear that concrete steps have been taken, culture change of this nature is an ongoing process and I will be maintaining contact with the local authority on this issue.”