Nursery culture blamed for sex abuse

Management of the nursery where paedophile Vanessa George sexually abused youngsters was severely criticised in an official report today.

The review of the scandal at Little Ted's in Plymouth concluded there was no indication "any professional could have reasonably predicted that George might be a risk to children".



But it also said there appeared to have been a "complete lack of recognition" that her increasingly strange behaviour after the break-up of her marriage had crossed boundaries.



Self-styled "paedo whore mum" George, 40, who was jailed indefinitely last year, took photographs on her phone of herself abusing toddlers and shared them with fellow paedophile Colin Blanchard.



A summary of a Serious Case Review commissioned by Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board after the scandal pointed to what it said was weak management at Little Ted's, which closed immediately after George's arrest.



The review said Little Ted's "provided an ideal environment within which George could abuse" and it was critical that Ofsted inspections failed to spot shortcomings.



It concluded that the management culture allowed the abuse to happen and lessons needed to be learned but "ultimate responsibility for the abuse must rest with George".



The report said there was a lack of safe recruitment procedures, an informal recruitment process and lack of formal staff supervision.



Following interviews with George's colleagues and parents, it was apparent that Little Ted's did not provide a safe, positive environment for children in its care, the report stated.



It said: "This would indicate that either the individual (Ofsted) inspections were not rigorous enough, or the framework for inspection is not adequate."



The report said it was not seen as significant that George began using a cubicle to change nappies rather than the general changing area.



Staff did not report concerns about her openly discussing her sex life or showing them inappropriate images on her mobile.



"The escalation of George's behaviour should have prompted a response by the manager of the nursery, but it did not do so.



"There appears to have been a complete lack of recognition of the seriousness of the boundary violation and a culture within the nursery where explicit sexual references in conversation were the norm."



The report said a culture developed at Little Ted's where staff felt unable to challenge George's increasingly inappropriate behaviour.



"Staff working Z (at the nursery) were becoming increasingly uncomfortable and worried about K's (George) behaviour yet had nowhere to go with these feelings," it said.



Police believe George came into contact with nearly 200 children while working at Little Ted's but she has refused to identify her victims.



Her descent from a working mother-of-two into a double life of depravity began with the breakdown of her marriage.



She had no known sexual interest in children until she met Blanchard, 40, on Facebook.



George became part of a paedophile ring featuring four women and headed by known sex offender Blanchard, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester.



The ring unravelled as police began an investigation into pornographic pictures found on Blanchard's computer by a colleague.



Their inquiries led to George, single mother Angela Allen, 40, of Nottingham, adult carer Tracy Dawber, 44, of Southport, Merseyside, and mother-of-nine Tracy Lyons, 40, from Portsmouth, Hampshire.



George and Blanchard never met in person, recording the abuse on their mobile phones and exchanging the pictures via email.



George, who had an NVQ level 2 in childcare, joined Little Ted's in September 2006 as deputy special educational needs co-ordinator and nursery assistant.



After the breakdown of her marriage she began searching the internet to meet men for "a bit of fun" - even offering sex to one man in exchange for an MOT for her car.



After making contact with Blanchard the twisted pair exchanged more than 7,000 explicit messages, emails and calls until his arrest in June 2009.



George admitted seven sexual assaults and six counts of making and distributing indecent pictures of children.



Jim Gould, chairman of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board, called for the Government to introduce legislation to "strengthen accountability frameworks for nurseries".



"The recommendations are already being implemented locally and we hope that the report will be used to help protect children around the country," he said.



He added: "We would also like to see Ofsted strengthen the inspection of nurseries to ensure there is a culture in all nursery settings that maximises the safeguarding of children."



Ofsted said it took its role in the inspection and regulation of nurseries "extremely seriously".



Patrick Leeson, the regulator's director of education and care, said: "It is important that lessons are learnt from this case.



"Ofsted has already implemented a number of changes in the way we work as a result of this review and to address the recommendations made."



The Department for Education said an ongoing review would consider whether standards for protecting young children need to be strengthened.



"This was a shocking case of abuse of children. The Serious Case Review by Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board identifies important lessons that all early years settings need to learn from so that vulnerable children are better protected in future," a spokesman said.



But one mother, who is in regular contact with many other parents, told The Herald in Plymouth: "I want to know how it happened, how no-one ever knew what went wrong and what changes are going to do to make sure it can't happen again."



Another asked: "Was it complacency? We know she was a devious cow, but how much could have been avoided?



"We just want an end to it, but for many of us it'll never go away because she won't divulge the names of those she abused."



One father said he hoped the review would lead to a change in the rules on the use of mobile phones in nurseries and schools.



"Having mobiles in there, especially now they all have cameras, was such a simple mistake, but with such phenomenal consequences," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?