Bishop Bell’s executive head Terry Boatwright has defended safeguarding at the school and explained everything possible was done to investigate Forrest’s relationship with the 15-year-old schoolgirl.
Four teachers from the Priory Road school gave evidence at the trial last week) and told the court they were aware the girl had a ‘crush’ on her 30-year-old teacher.
Rumours about holding hands on a trip to Los Angeles in February 2012, Twitter messages and texts between pair in the lead up to the 2012 summer break were raised as concerns to senior members of staff by pupils on a number of occasions.
The four teachers told the court they had repeatedly warned Forrest to keep his distance from the girl.
Speaking after the trial Mr Boatwright said the school remained ‘saddened’ and ‘deeply shocked’ by Forrest’s betrayal of trust.
When asked if the school did enough and acted quick enough, Mr Boatwright said, “It would be quite wrong to suggest that the school did not act upon, or respond to, concerns.
“Until September 2012, we only had very limited anecdotal hearsay and no evidence of a relationship. However, even so, everything was investigated following appropriate, County approved, safeguarding procedures.
“Prior to the events of September 2012 and the formal child protection investigation that took place then, the school investigated reported concerns promptly, involving the local authority at the appropriate points and following its advice.
“Everything was investigated following appropriate safeguarding procedures.
“At no point did the school find evidence of a relationship and at no point did the reported concerns reach the threshold to involve the police formally.
“The police became involved formally in September 2012 when further, and more serious, concerns were raised.
“Even then, after investigating more serious concerns than we had received, the police informed us that they had found no evidence to support arresting Mr Forrest and handed the matter back to the school.”
Mr Boatwright added, “We take our responsibility extremely seriously and our safeguarding policies and procedures are robust.
“The serious incident triggered an Ofsted inspection in November 2012, led by Ofsted’s top safeguarding inspector, who thoroughly scrutinised our policies and practice.
“He found the school’s safeguarding procedures and practices to be secure and his report identified no weaknesses. However, we are keen to act upon any learning from these events to ensure that all pupils at the school are as safe as they possibly could be.”
The Herald asked Mr Boatwright whether lessons had been learnt from the case.
He said, “The school is confident that it followed appropriate procedures and made correct decisions, in conjunction with relevant agencies. However, in the light of this, we have clearly reviewed our policies and practices to consider what learning could come out of this incident. Our key concern is that our pupils must be as safe as possible at school. As a result, we have strengthened our e-safety policy and practices.
“We have given all staff additional safeguarding training, particularly focusing on e-safety and the use of social media, and we have introduced a new social media policy for staff.
“In addition, there will be a Serious Case Review, led by the Local Safeguarding Children Board, which will look very thoroughly at the detailed events and actions undertaken by all agencies involved in this incident. The school is keen to act upon any learning which comes out of that.”