Nursery rape case review criticises poor management

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Failings in a nursery's management and by Ofsted and a local authority meant that concerns about a nursery assistant who raped a toddler were missed.

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Paul Wilson, then 21, was jailed in 2011 after raping a girl at Little Stars nursery in Brimingham.

Mr Wilson only came to the attention of West Midlands Police following an accusation by a 13-year-old girl of online grooming.

He had worked at the nursery for 18 months before his arrest.

He later admitted more than 40 offences of grooming young girls on the internet and distributing indecent images.

The serious case review by Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board has found that the nursery worker had a ‘special relationship’ with the child, which was known to nursery staff, Ofsted and the local authority, but a failure by the authorities to take action meant that the abuse was missed.

The report highlights poor nursery management and the failure of the council and Ofsted to investigate concerns raised about the nursery worker’s behaviour.

The serious case review states, ‘It is clear that staff within the nursery, Ofsted and the local authority were aware that the perpetrator was known to have a special relationship with subject child. Any such "special relationships" within a setting should be scrutinised and particular attention paid to situations where the child may be considered vulnerable.’

The report said that the ‘although the responsibility for the abuse must lie with the perpetrator’ there were a number of interacting factors:

  • poor management at the nursery
  • failures by Ofsted and the local authority to investigate concerns
  • ‘a lack of rigour and depth’ in inspection,
  • missed opportunities to use the assessment process
  • national issues relating to the quality of early years qualifications
  • availability of resources to the police to respond to the increasing incidence of internet abuse.

The report said that the interaction of these factors meant that there were ‘missed opportunities to intervene earlier’ and stop the abuse, both online and in the nursery. ‘It was entirely fortuitous that the offending came to light via a route other than robust responses to concerns within the nursery,’ it said.

 

Management failings

The nursery was previously managed by Mr Wilson’s mother, who had left the nursery before he joined as a student on a placement in April 2008, which had been found through his mother’s contacts. The nursery was linked to a community project and although a member of the board of trustees was the nominated person for Oftsed registration purposes, the nursery managers dealt with the day to day running of the setting and were viewed by the board as experts on childcare.

The serious case review points to ‘lax recruitment processes’, including Mr Wilson working without a CRB check.

The report says that there is evidence that there were close relationships between some parents and staff, with staff being friends with parents on Facebook.

The report said that ‘too much power and control resided with the manager who was seen as the expert in safeguarding.

‘There is a need to ensure that appropriate boundaries are maintained between staff and parents within the staff group. This is especially important where the setting serves a close knit local community.’

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