Serious safeguarding concerns alleged after boy facing criminal charges went on to assault girl at second school
A teenage girl has been awarded £25,000 in compensation after, at the age of 13, she suffered a sexual assault at school by a boy aged 15 who had been moved from another school where he was under police investigation for similar alleged criminal offences.
Posted on 05 January 2023
In a legal claim against the second school, the parents of the teenager, who we have called Layla, allege that proper safeguarding measures were not in place, with the result that she suffered a sexual assault.
After the assault on Layla came to light and a second police investigation began, the boy admitted penetrative sexual activity with a girl aged between 13 and 16.
However, Layla’s school did not admit liability in the legal claim, even raising that this was entirely consensual activity, but agreed to settle the claim and pay compensation.
A place at Layla’s school was given to the boy in 2017. He had been removed from his former school while under criminal investigation for alleged sexual offences against two girls and by the time of the sexual assault against Layla, the family believe he was due to be sentenced for the earlier offences.
Layla was in Year 9 and the boy was in Year 10 when the sexual grooming and eventual assault happened.
Records obtained by the family showed that the school were aware that the pair were in contact, and even described Layla as “fragile” and noted the boy’s “difficult past”.
After concerns about contact between Layla and the boy were raised, Layla’s parents advised her to stay away from him.
However, in February half-term 2018 the boy messaged Layla again and, despite the school’s knowledge by this point, the pair were able to meet at school the following week, where the assault happened in the boys’ toilets.
Layla’s parents were contacted by the education welfare officer about the pair having shared intimate images and to report allegations about sexual activity between them in the school toilets. Layla later disclosed the assault to her parents and the police were contacted.
Two days later the boy was to be removed from the school. It was only at this point that the school confirmed the boy was awaiting sentencing for a criminal offence at a previous school.
It later became clear that senior leaders at the second school had been alive to the safeguarding risks of the boy’s attendance. The head of safeguarding told Layla’s parents that a specialist risk assessment was in place in relation to the boy, however the family believe that only members of the senior leadership team were aware that the assessment was in place. Even the boy’s class tutor had no knowledge of the risk assessment.
In their legal claim, the girl’s parents cite a 2019 Ofsted report which rated the school as inadequate and stated that trust and school leaders had not fulfilled their statutory duties to ensure that safeguarding arrangements were effective. Potential risks were not identified quickly enough or adequate action was not taken to reduce them.
Layla’s parents say the findings of the Ofsted report entirely reflect their daughter’s experience.
Layla’s father said:
“Our daughter was totally let down by her school with regard to safeguarding. Senior staff were fully aware of the risks to other children of a boy freely attending despite being under criminal investigation for alleged sexual offences against pupils at a previous school. Would they let an adult with similar accusations anywhere near a school?
“After the allegations came to light, we were totally shocked that there wasn’t any guidance for parents to help them support their child in such a situation, and we expect there probably still isn’t. We hope that by highlighting what happened to Layla that we can raise awareness of this kind of issue in schools. Parents need to be aware that rigorous measures are not in place in schools to protect pupils from being preyed upon by sexually abusive young people.”
The family are represented by Andrew Lord, solicitor in Leigh Day’s human rights abuse team.
Andrew Lord said:
“In this day and age, parents ought to be able send their children to school secure in the knowledge that they will be protected from known risks, and children should be able to access their education without fear of harm and sexual violence.
“This was a shocking case of a school not appropriately recognising warnings signs or mitigating clear risks.
“The risk assessment may have been in existence but it cannot have been implemented in any effective way
“A duty of care was owed to Layla, and I sincerely hope that she is now able to go on with her life knowing that the person who assaulted her and the institution which failed her have been held to account.”
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