Teacher at Eton College charged with sexual offences against pupil | Bolt Burdon Kemp Teacher at Eton College charged with sexual offences against pupil | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Teacher at Eton College charged with sexual offences against pupil

News broke yesterday that Jacob Leland, a former teacher at Eton College, has been charged with 14 counts of sexual offences against a teenage boy whilst he was employed at the school from 2010 – 2012.  He denies the charges.

It is less than three years ago that the former Eton College geography teacher Matthew Mowbray, was jailed for five years for sexual offences involving children taking place at Eton between 2012 and 2019.

The new charges against Leland add fuel to my long-held concerns that there are serious problems with safeguarding children in the private/independent education sector. Boarding schools pose particular safeguarding risks since there are more opportunities for abuse taking place at school when children live away from home, are separated from families for prolonged periods of time and so cannot escape their surroundings.

Ofsted reported earlier this year that 8% of the private schools they monitored were inadequate (compared to just 3% of state-funded schools). Safeguarding was not considered to be effective in over two-thirds of these inadequate independent schools.

In addition, the most elite private schools fall outside of Ofsted’s remit entirely and are monitored by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. Ofsted’s chief inspector complained in 2018 and 2019 that she was unable to monitor the efficacy of the ISI. She raised safeguarding as a particular potential problem but her complaints went unheeded by the government (who said that the Department of Education carried out this monitoring itself).

I am pleased that in September 2023 the ISI introduced a new framework for better safeguarding – but it still does not make sense that the Department of Education should set elite private schools apart from other schools with a separate regulatory body.

Private schools are often extremely cautious at managing and maintaining their reputations – after all this is what they rely upon to generate the next year’s school fees so they can continue to operate (and occasionally, make a profit).  This can lead to pressure on staff to deal with safeguarding issues “off the record”, managing concerns from a reputation-first perspective rather than complete transparency. To guard against this, independent schools should if anything, face tougher inspections, regulations, and safeguarding duties compared to state schools – not the lighter touch of the ISI.

During my career, I have been instructed by many survivors of sexual and physical abuse at private schools. A civil claim for compensation can enable survivors to access funding for therapy and losses because of the abuse they have experienced. Anyone who has suffered abuse can contact me directly for free, no-obligation, advice about their rights.

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