Bishop Bell headteacher should resign after Forrest jailing says abuse charity

Marilyn Hawes
Marilyn Hawes

Calls for Bishop Bell head Terry Boatwright to resign have been made by the founder of an abuse charity following the jailing of child abductor Jeremy Forrest.

Marilyn Hawes, a mum-of-four, teacher and the founder of Enough Abuse, has said that management at the school should ‘grow a spine’ and apologise for getting it wrong.

This comes after maths teacher Forrest started a sexual relationship with his 15-year-old pupil before taking her to France on September 20 last year.

On Friday (June 21) the 30-year-old from Ringmer was jailed for five counts of sexual activity with a child and child abduction.

Forrest is the latest child sex offender associated with Bishop Bell School, after governor Canon Gordon Rideout was jailed for historic sex offences last month and another teacher, Robert Healy, was sent to prison for having sexual relationships with pupils back in 2009.

In an interview with the Gazette, Ms Hawes said, “I do not understand how one of the school’s governors can say they have robust child protection policies – they have anything but.

“What did they learn from 2009? Clearly nothing.

“The head of the school should resign or be sacked. If you don’t want the accountability, don’t go in to the job.

“They need to grow a spine and say ‘I’m sorry I got it wrong’.”

Ms Hawes said management at the school should have created distance between the pair, given Forrest a written warning when he failed to keep his distance and then suspended him pending investigations.

She said formal meetings should have been called with the parents, the girl and Forrest individually with the head, chair of governor and teacher responsible for safeguarding all present.

The court heard from four teachers during the trial who all told the court they had repeatedly warned Forrest to keep his distance from the girl. Alicja Bobela, the teacher responsible for safeguarding Bishop Bell, gave evidence and said she had tried unsuccessfully to contact the girl’s mother on a number of occasions.

She said, “There has been massive sloppiness with internal communication at Bishop Bell.”

She added, “Too many people no do not take accountability. They always think there is an excuse.”

Ms Hawes said the school had failed in its duty of care to both the girl and Forrest.

Mr Boatwright, executive head of Bishop Bell, The Causeway and Stafford School, said, “It would be wrong to conclude that these three very different cases collectively amount to a failing in school safeguarding practices. An OFSTED inspection in November 2012, led by OFSTED’s top safeguarding inspector, found the school’s safeguarding policies and procedures to be secure.

“As is evident from the evidence given in court, the school had investigated reported concerns, involving the local authority at the appropriate points and following its advice.

“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 formally involved in September 2012 when further, and more serious, concerns were raised.

“In terms of the cases of Canon Rideout and Robert Healy, as is evident from scrutiny of evidence after the court cases, the school acted appropriately with the information available in both of these situations.

“In respect of Canon Rideout’s role as governor of Bishop Bell, we believe we followed the process correctly and made decisions based on available information provided to us at the time. Our conclusions with regard to Canon Rideout’s tenure as a governor were in line with the view taken by the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

“Finally, in terms of Mr Healy, a temporary cover supervisor, on uncovering evidence of a possible relationship, we immediately informed the police, Local Authority and other relevant parties and were instrumental in bringing him to justice.”

Ms Hawes told the Gazette she was ‘passionate about education’ and described the Forrest case as a ‘kick in the gut’ for good schools. She said she felt the Department of Education and the Church of England had not supported the school during the Forrest case. She said, “Where was Michael Gove on Friday?”