Schools urged to be alert to abuse

18th February 2000 at 00:00
The Waterhouse report says teachers should be trained to spot the signs that a child is being abused. Julie Henry reports

SIR Ronald Waterhouse, author of the report into the sexual and physical abuse of children in North Wales care homes, has urged teachers to be more vigilant in order to spot abused pupils.

His report, detailing "deeds of appalling mistreatment and wickedness" between 1974 and 1990, will have far-reaching implications for all those who work with children.

The 500,000-word document - the product of 16 months of harrowing public testimony from a generation of abused children - names 200 people, including heads of homes and independent residential schools, care workers and council officers.

Several teachers are identified, three of whom have now been barred from working with children. Their names have been added to the Department for Education and Employment's List 99.

Sir Ronald's recommendations include training in sexual abuse awareness for teachers, to be arranged by area child protection committees.

Teachers and other professionals should be regularly reminded of the important role they have to play in reporting abuse, he said.

Speaking at a conference last week, Sir Ronald said "teachers need to be more aware" of the possibility of their pupils suffering abuse and highlighted the importance for children in care of trusted adults outside social services.

Of the 200 people named in the report, some are criticised for incompetence rather than abuse and others have been exonerated. Twenty-five are convicted child abusers, some of whom are now dead. Eleven people were found by the inquiry to have harmed children and to be unfit to work with youngsters.

Twenty-eight others have been deemed unsuitable to work with children and urgent measures are now under way to track them down. A list of names has been sent to every council, health authority, police force and voluntary organisation in the country and names have been added to the Department of Health's blacklist, the "consultancy index".

A total of 72 recommendations have been made by the report which calls on local councils, social services, police and the Governmen to make fundamental changes. They give added clout to Government initiatives for improving the lot of looked-after children.

An independent children's commissioner for Wales will be appointed to oversee complaints and publish reports into abuse allegations.

Amid demands in Parliament and from children's charities for a similar ombudsman in England, Health Secretary Alan Milburn confirmed the establishment of a national children's rights director to "police" the independent regulation and inspection of children's homes.

The report also recommends that every social services authority should appoint a children's complaints officer.

In response to the report, the Local Government Association claimed a great many steps had been taken to improve standards for children in care, creating a safer system than in the period covered by Waterhouse.

A National Union of Teachers spokeswoman said Government-funded training was now vital in an era when pressure on teachers had sidelined pastoral work in schools. Calls for properly-funded training were backed by children's charity ChildLine.


Widespread sexual abuse of children in homes in Clwyd and physical abuse in homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd by care workers between 1974 and 1990.

Sexual and physical abuse in a few foster homes.

The main evidence centres on Bryn Alyn and Bryn Estyn homes in Clwyd, now Flintshire.

Paedophile ring in Wrexham and Chester.

No evidence of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving prominent people.

Widespread failures at local authority, Welsh Office and central Government level. Some police investigations were inadequate.

Waterhouse recommends:

an independent children's commissioner for Wales;

a children's complaints officer to be appointed in every social services department;

social workers to visit children assigned to them at least once every eight weeks;

area child protection committees to arrange training in abuse awareness for teachers, social services and


urgent training of residential childcare workers and a national review of their pay, status and career


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