Concern Over School Abuse Inquiry

Two years after a report into sex abuse at a school, there is concern all its recommendations have not yet been met. Wales’ children’s commissioner, Peter Clarke, set out 31 tasks to minimise future risk after his Clywch inquiry into Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, Pontypridd. It followed abuse by drama teacher John Owen, who killed himself before trial. BBC Wales has learned at least 10 recommendations are not fulfilled yet, but the assembly government said it was committed to delivering them all.

Mr Clarke ordered a public inquiry into the abuse at the school after Mr Owen, who was 49, killed himself at a caravan park the day before he was due to stand trial on five counts of indecent assault against former pupils. The resulting report, published in July 2004, described how Owen serially sexually abused pupils over a period of two decades. It demanded major changes in protection for school children. Mr Clarke’s office has given BBC Wales’ The Politics Show information on the situation two years on.

The recommendations not yet fulfilled deal with matters from guidance on drama teaching to the provision of an independent children’s counselling service.

Plaid Cymru AM Janet Ryder said she was concerned that 13 of Wales’ 22 local education authorities had still not provided school governing bodies with policies setting out how to blow the whistle on suspected abuse. Fourteen recommendations which emerged from the inquiry were directed at the assembly government, which said it was either implementing, or has implemented, all those recommendations for which it had responsibility.

Education Minister Jane Davidson said the “vast number” of recommendations had already been implemented. She told The Politics Show that her commitment to Clywch stemmed from her role as both minister and as AM for Pontypridd, the constituency in which Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen is based. Ms Davidson also emphasised that some Clywch recommendations were not solely for the assembly government. She said it required a multi-agency approach involving local government and examination bodies.

John Owen, a former pupil at the school, was a drama teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen for 17 years from 1974. He resigned from the school in 1991 following allegations about his unorthodox teaching methods and conduct. In 2001, four of his former pupils came forward with abuse allegations dating back to his time as a teacher. He was charged with five counts of indecent assault, but the day before he was due in court in October 2001, he was found dead in a caravan at Trecco Bay, Porthcawl.

The Clywch inquiry was launched in March 2002. During months of detailed evidence fresh allegations of sex abuse were made by ex-pupils and their parents during the hearings.

There were claims that Mr Owen abused some pupils in his own home as well as asking boys to perform in the nude during “virtually pornographic” lessons.