Published: 06:00, 25 March 2020
Further fears have been raised over child welfare at a primary school after it was revealed two children have been subjected to sexual bullying.
Earlier this year KentOnline reported how a pupil at Holy Trinity School in Gravesend was bullied and subjected to incidents of a sexual nature in 2017 - and education bosses rapped the school for failing to provide sufficient safeguarding measures.
Since then another concerned parent has come forward to reveal her son was also subjected to a campaign of bullying two years previously - and says the school clearly failed to learn lessons.
In the 2015 case, the victim's mother had noted her son had seemed reluctant to attend swimming lessons, but would not explain why and so she reported her concerns to the school.
Although she was told a teacher would speak to her son, she says this never happened, and it wasn't until a fellow pupil and their parent spoke to her that the extent of the bullying was made clear.
The victim eventually recounted how they had "been made to remove his swim shorts and expose his private area to a group of children while being laughed at and called gay, being told to make sexual movement with his private area."
This was said to have happened every week for numerous weeks, and the victim was also "made to lick the floor", "kiss the perpetrator's feet", "lick the bus window on his journey to and from swimming" and "kiss the dirty trim trail floor."
The victim's mother said staff clearly failed to notice what was happening - and said a prayer written by her son at school should have served as a clear warning.
In it he had written: "Dear Lord, please let me be safe. Let my friends be safe when swimming. When I'm swimming let me be safe. Let me try because I won't be able to swim.
"Keep me safe all the time can you be there all the time?"
"Stay there and help me. Amen."
His mother says the school failed to deal with her complaint adequately and told her the matter had been dealt with, her complaint was eventually passed to an external panel of governors.
After a hearing, the panel wrote to the victim's mother, concluding the bullying "did constitute sexual bullying".
They added: "The sanction applied to the child found guilty (mediation), did not match the seriousness of the incidents. Other more significant sanctions should have been considered."
It was also not clear what briefing staff had received.
They added: "This was particularly unfortunate because there was anecdotal evidence that the bullying behaviour which occurred at the swimming pool, continued elsewhere within the school subsequently.
"The panel was not presented with any evidence which demonstrated that the investigation conducted by the chair of governors had been robust and were surprised to learn that you had not been consulted during these investigations."
"Something bad happened here and it just got covered up..."
They concluded: "The panel having fully considered all matters uphold your complaint that the bullying was of a sexual nature and that the school failed to implement its complaints policy correctly."
The recommendations of the panel were for the school to review its policies on child protection, anti-bullying, and complaints; and arrange additional training for staff.
But the victim's mother, who removed him from the school, says the school failed to react to the findings.
"My son's case was before the other case," she said. "The independent panel quite clearly stated that safe-guarding needed to be looked into. The school clearly ignored that.
"My son was happy and healthy and loving life - he didn't have a care in the world.
"If something bad happens you teach them right from wrong, but something bad happened here and it just got covered up.
"It makes you wonder if there are other kids affected in that school."
Head teacher Denise Gibbs-Naguar said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an individual case. However, I am confident safeguarding policies at Holy Trinity Primary School are robust and are followed in sufficient depth by all staff members.
"In 2018, Ofsted carried out an inspection at the school, which resulted in a Good grade, and inspectors particularly praised the way staff carry out safeguarding duties. Inspectors also noted that both parents and children believe pupils feel safe at school.
"The safety and well-being of all our pupils is of paramount importance and we will take any measures necessary to ensure they can learn and play in a safe and secure environment.
"We would always encourage any pupil, parent or carer to speak to myself or another member of staff if they are concerned about something that happens in school.”
More by this authorChris Hunter