Stringent checks urged for staff at special schools

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The Independent Online
CALLS for more stringent checks on independent special schools were made yesterday in a government-sponsored report on a social services investigation of Castle Hill in Shropshire.

The report, based on evidence of the 'horrendous sexual abuse and humiliation' of pupils at the special school between 1984 and 1989, calls for more stringent checks into staff qualifications and backgrounds, more effective ways of monitoring pupil numbers and clearly defined guidance for pupils wishing to make confidential complaints.

The Castle Hill Report: A Practice Guide, written by Shropshire social services, is based on information acquired during its investigation of the abuse perpetrated by Ralph Morris, who owned and ran the school.

Between 1984 and 1989, when the school was closed by the Department for Education, he sexually abused 43 emotionally disturbed boys boarding in his care. A further 50 were physically abused.

In 1991, after the three-year investigation, Morris, then 47, was convicted at Shrewsbury Crown Court on nine counts relating to sexual and physical abuse of pupils and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Morris gave himself false qualifications in the school prospectus, registered his special school with the Department for Education as having 37 beds when pupils numbered up to 60 and tampered with pupil records, the investigation found.

He had left a position at a youth club in Liverpool after allegations of financial mismanagement.

Despite seven separate allegations of abuse from pupils over two years, no action was taken to review the complaints until 1989, partly because the pupils were viewed as maladjusted and therefore untrustworthy, the report says.

Morris was sexually involved with boys ranging in age from 11 to 20 when he was on night duty, the report says. 'Some boys would be engaged in sessions of mutual masturbation. There were also group sessions with up to five boys and including Ralph Morris. The boys referred to these as 'six-handers'.'

Boys who responded to his approaches were given extra money, expensive clothes and cigarettes. They were 'a fearful and vindictive corps' who would assault other pupils at Morris's instigation.

During the day, boys would also be called out of the classroom on a pretext and taken to his room, social workers discovered. They would then be sexually abused.

A social worker waged a 13-year reign of terror on children in his care despite repeated warnings that he was abusing them, an independent inquiry has found.

It disclosed that social services managers failed to act on allegations of physical and sexual abuse, while cries for help from children at Todwick Grange, a home for problem children on the outskirts of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, went ignored.

Instead they promoted Malcolm Thompson, who manipulated and abused boys, the inquiry report says. Last year Thompson, 39, was jailed for six years after admitting four offences against boys aged between 11 and 17.