Skip to main content

'Sex dungeon' head could have been caught sooner

Headteacher used school funds to build 'sex dungeon' stocked with champagne

James Stewart

Headteacher used school funds to build 'sex dungeon' stocked with champagne

A disgraced headteacher who used funds to build a "sex dungeon" alongside his office could have been caught sooner, a report has suggested.

James Stewart was executive principal at Sawtry Village Academy in Cambridgeshire until 2014 when the Department for Education launched an investigation into his running of the school.

He was convicted of fraud and misconduct in public office for offences between 2011 and 2014, and was jailed for four years in October 2017 after defrauding the school out of more than £100,000.

Money that could have been spent on school maintenance was put to non-educational uses, such as furnishing Stewart’s office with sex toys, rugs and a fridge full of champagne.

In December, Cambridgeshire County Council had to step in with £2 million to bail out the school after it had fallen into disrepair.

A report about the case titled Lessons Learned – Sawtry Village Academy, which was prepared in response to issues raised in the criminal case, will go before a meeting of the council's Children and Young People's Committee on Tuesday.

It said a whistleblower tried to report concerns in 2011, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

"Staff state that an attempt was made by a former colleague to blow the whistle to the local authority in 2011," the report said.

"This attempt was unsuccessful and allegedly the whistleblower was told it was not possible to take the concerns further without the support of the entire leadership team or the chair of governors; this was felt to be impossible due to concerns about collusion."

The report said this advice "was not in line with local whistleblowing processes at the time", and it was "not clear why such advice would have been given".

It noted that fraud and misconduct at the school took place "over a significant period of time", but that, since joining the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust in 2015, "significant action" has been taken "to ensure this issue does not occur again".

This included making staff aware of the whistleblowing policy, and displaying posters with details of people to contact.

"Staff commented that they would now feel significantly more confident in blowing the whistle," the report said.

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara raised the case during education questions in the House of Commons last year.

He said the school had been left in "serious financial difficulty", and that this was "not least because of the activities of its former head, which included building a sex dungeon alongside his office for his private use".

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you