Schools 'no safer' today than they were 50 years ago, says Caldicott sex abuse victim
Schools are “no safer now than they were 50 years ago,” a victim of sexual abuse at one of England’s most prestigious prep schools has claimed.
Tom Perry (pictured) spoke out as 83-year-old Roland Peter Wright, the former headmaster of Calidcott Preparatory School was due to be sentenced today (Feb 6) after being convicted of abusing boys at Caldicott Preparatory School between 1959 and 1970.
Another former teacher at the Buckinghamshire school, Hugh Henry, 82, who was also due to be sentenced on abuse charges, died on Tuesday after being hit by a train.
In total, three former teachers at the school were convicted of abusing more than 30 pupils, a fourth died before he could be charged and a fifth was aquitted following a retrial.
Mr Perry is now calling for "mandatory reporting", making a it a legal requirement for school staff to report suspected abuse to the authorities.
“People are appalled when they hear of the sexual abuse we suffered and shocked at the failure of some staff who worked at the school to report what they knew or suspected," he said.
“Many parents have a mistaken belief that things have changed since our day, but sadly there is still no law requiring staff working in schools who either suspect or know of abuse to report it to anyone. In this respect, nothing has changed in the last fifty years."
Mr Perry's claims come after David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said he thought it was "almost impossible" for sexual abuse to take place in modern preps.
But Mr Perry added that there continued to be a “systemic failure” to report abuse in many schools.
“Had mandatory reporting existed when I was abused, I and others who attended this school are confident Wright would have been stopped long ago," he said.
"Even as a ten year-old, I questioned why the captain of rugby, who traditionally sat at Wright's table in the school dining room, took morning tea to his bedroom and often then failed to return to breakfast. My innocent mind could not explain it; I merely thought 'that's what I will have to do if I become captain'. Indeed, that is exactly what happened."
Mr Perry, who attended Caldicott from 1963 to 1967, said that the failure of adults to speak out remained a “common problem”.
“There are many examples where the toxic combination of adults being unwilling and children being unable to speak has often led to no report being made.” he said.
Creating a legal requirement for those involved in “regulated activities” with children, such as teachers, was the most effective way to support staff to speak out, he said.
A statement from the Independent Schools Council said: “The abuse of children by predatory individuals in schools is deplorable and we are relieved that justice has finally been done in these cases.
"The safety and welfare of the young people in schools is our first and most important responsibility and we support any measures that will further safeguard children.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Department for Education said that it was "not considering the introduction of mandatory reporting."
"Guidance is already absolutely clear that professionals should refer immediately to the authorities when they are concerned about a child.
"We continue to work with other departments to ensure the existing law is clear and that guidance is up to date."
The department is concerned that in other countries which have introduced it, mandatory reporting has resulted in an increase in referrals that could actually make it harder to identify the children who really need help.