Inquiry hears Wells paedophile teacher had ‘duped staff’
A paedophile teacher who was eventually convicted had duped staff at the school he worked at, an inquiry heard.
Wells Cathedral School music teacher Julien Bertrand was jailed in 2006 after being found guilty of sexual offences against two pupils.
Helen Bennett, the school’s former safeguarding lead, told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse: “We couldn’t see what was there.”
The school said safeguarding procedures had since been overhauled.
Mrs Bennett, who had only begun her job as the safeguarding lead in 2005, said there were low-level concerns about Bertrand at the time.
But she said the school was “just reassured over and over again”.
Mrs Bennett added: “At one point the parents colluded with an incident, where we were concerned the child was upset, and the parents said, ‘no it’s fine’.
“Even though eyes were open, we couldn’t see what was there.”
Mrs Bennett, who retired in 2016, added that in the aftermath of Bertrand’s conviction training became “blunt and clear”.
“One thing we wanted to rule out was this ‘touchy, feely climate where children would play fight with members of staff, and hugging and kissing and all that sort of thing,” she said.
‘Could happen here’
Alistair Tighe, the current head of safeguarding at Wells Cathedral School, said staff are thoroughly trained with regards to safeguarding.
“We make it clear in all our training,” he said. “There is a ‘it could happen here’ mentality, and that is a message we want all our staff to be aware of.”