Jun 22 2011 By Dan Coombs
A PRIMARY school teacher suspected of sexual abuse should have been stopped and prevented eight years before he was suspended, according to a new report.
Robert Stringer died in a car crash last February the night before he was set to stand trial for rape, sexual touching and indecent assault offences committed against four young girls.
He taught at Field End Junior School in Field End Road, Eastcote, between 1998 and 2008 before resigning as disciplinary proceedings were due to commence.
Now a new 36-page report commissioned by Hillingdon Council's local safeguarding children board has ruled that several chances to identify and report Stringer's behaviour were missed by the school and the authorities.
The serious case review, written on the assumption Stringer was guilty, reports that he was charged with 25 sexual offences against children in total, which began in 2000, with his victims between eight and 10 years old.
The review documents that a mother made a complaint to the school in January 2000 about Stringer, referred to as 'Mr X' in the report, claiming he touched her daughter inappropriately.
This was never followed up, and despite a log of complaints about his behaviour, now retired headteacher Penny Croft raised the concerns with him but never launched a formal investigation, with the report citing he intimidated her.
Stringer ran an out of hours drama club which the report states 'allowed him to exercise an element of control within the school itself...he was in a position to overtly assess their dramatic ability whilst covertly assessing their vulnerability to abuse.'
According to the report, headteacher at the time Stringer started, Penny Croft had stated that she could not speak to Stringer regarding complaints without being shouted at by him, and the review states that he used 'bullying, fear, threats and flattery to keep his abuse quiet.'
However the findings conclude that after the first complaint in 2000, Stringer should never have been allowed to run his drama club unsupervised.
A new headteacher took over at the school in 2004, and despite the death of her own husband, Sheila Pikulski was eventually able to tackle his unprofessional behaviour in 2008 and call for disciplinary proceedings.
This was because a year earlier he showed children a sexually inappropriate 15 certificate film version of Shakespeare in Love.
This led to Stringer resigning, despite vocal protests from deceived parents keen on his drama group, which split the school community in two.