THE principal of a South Lakes school told an independent inquiry that past issues surrounding child sexual abuse had since been addressed.

A former pupil of Appletree School, Natland, gave evidence and recalled being sexually abused and raped by fellow pupils during his time there more than 10 years ago.

And principal Clair Davies also spoke at the ‘Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’, which was launched by Theresa May in 2014 amid concerns about the level of protection of children by some organisations.

Mrs Davies has been principal of Appletree since 1995, when the school opened to ‘support young children who have experienced trauma and whose lives have been severely disrupted’.

The former pupil who spoke at the inquiry, referred to only as ‘C2’, said he could “clearly remember” being sexually abused in his bedroom by other pupils while at the school. This, he added, happened on numerous occasions.

He also described an incident which allegedly occurred on one of the many times he absconded, where he was raped by a fellow pupil who had also run away.

Mrs Davies said changes had been introduced at the school since this time to help stop these kinds of incidents happening.

Regarding the instance of children accessing each other’s bedrooms without the staff knowing, she said: “I think possibly the (staff member) who was awake went to the toilet or was in another part of the building.

“That possibly was when the children got into each other’s rooms, which is why we have increased to two (staff members) awake.”

She added: “We put it so that if a child walked out of their room a light would come on, so that would alert the person who was awake.”

Mrs Davies also described having alarms put in that made a noise in the area where the on-duty members of staff were.

In 2013, Ofsted ordered an emergency inspection of Appletree School, during which the management of children absconding was considered. Mrs Davies confirmed, following the inspection, measures were taken to stop absconding happening. For example, the height of the fences around the school was increased.

She said: “We didn’t have any children run off in the six years from 2013 to 2019 and there was a one-off incident in January of this year.”

Mrs Davies admitted the child who allegedly raped C2, known as ‘C1’, was probably not appropriately placed by being moved to Appletree. Prior to C1 arriving at the school, it had been reported he was “developing a pattern of sexually abusive behaviours towards others”.

The inquiry was told C1 had been excluded from mainstream school for sexually abusing another child, and had a “chaotic and abusive early life”.

Mrs Davies said the team at Appletree worked closely with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to “keep him safe and help him”. However, following the alleged rape of C2, C1 was transferred to another institution. Mrs Davies added: “I think we should have made the recommendations which we made when he moved on much earlier.”

Several schools have given evidence at the inquiry. It is intended its findings will help better protect children in future.