Report finds Birmingham council and Ofsted inspectors missed pointers that should have raised alarm about Paul Wilson
A review into the rape of a toddler by pedophile nursery worker has criticized Ofsted and council staff for failing to properly investigate concerns about his behavior.
Wilson was arrested after police investigating the attempted online grooming of a 13-year-old girl examined his computer, on which they discovered footage he had filmed himself on his mobile phone raping the toddler at the Little Stars nursery in Nechells,Birmingham, where he had worked for 18 months.
Wilson, whose mother had previously been a manager at the nursery, though not at the time of the attacks, had abused the toddler on at least two occasions.
Ofsted had received an anonymous complaint from a staff member about Wilson’s behaviour towards the girl, who the review said was from a vulnerable background. It included him cuddling the child, rocking her for hours at a time, wrapping her in a blanket and refusing to leave her. He also spent time with her to the exclusion of others.
Ofsted did not speak to Wilson but it did approach the nursery manager, who believed the allegations were an issue of professional practice rather than child protection. The nursery was given a “notice to improve”, and a subsequent Ofsted inspection graded it as “good”.
The review, carried out by Birmingham’s Safeguarding Children Board, said a lack of rigour and depth in inspection processes had “supported” Wilson’s offences.
Among other failings and weaknesses identified by the report was a lack of supervision, poor management within the nursery, and its layout.
Wilson, of Newbold Croft, Nechells, was ordered to serve at least 15 years for the “chilling, vile and depraved” offences committed at the nursery, and the online abuse of more than 20 young girls.
Commenting after the publication of the serious case review, the chair of the Safeguarding Children Board, Jane Held, said: “Responsibility for this awful abuse must, and does, lie with the perpetrator.
“He was clever, duplicitous and manipulative and took advantage of weaknesses in the system.
“Parents should be able to trust the people they leave their children with to ensure that children are properly protected.
“In this case there were unfortunately a number of weaknesses in the way that nursery was run and a number of opportunities to intervene earlier and prevent the continuation of abuse which were missed.”
Ms Held added: “There are three key lessons arising from this review.
“One is that those in charge of settings caring for children must ensure there are strong, clear practices and systems to minimise the risk of abuse.
“The second is to listen to and ask about children’s experiences rather than just speak to adults.
“The third, and potentially the most important, is that safeguarding children is a job for everyone, and every single person who looks after or cares for children needs to know how to recognise when something is not right and what to do about it, and have confidence they will get the right response when they do act.”
The review found weak safeguarding practice within the nursery combined to create an environment where factors which might have deterred the perpetrator from abusing the child were missing.
As well as making eight key recommendations, the review established that the local authority did not communicate with relevant agencies and investigate initial child protection concerns.
The report stated: “Parents should be able to expect that children in nurseries are cared for within environments where highly skilled staff are supported, both by their own management and external organisations, to focus on all aspects of the needs of children, including their need for safety from sexual harm.
“Sadly, this did not happen in this case.
“Although the responsibility for the abuse must lie with the perpetrator, it was supported by the combination of a number of interacting factors.
“The interaction of these factors resulted in a situation where there were missed opportunities to intervene earlier and prevent the continuation of abuse, both within the nursery and online.
“It was entirely fortuitous that the offending came to light via a route other than robust responses to concerns within the nursery.”
Making recommendations to various organisations, including colleges providing nursery care qualifications, the report’s author, Jane Wonnacott, concluded: “Those responsible for managing individual nurseries must make sure that the highest standards are maintained in relation to safeguarding practice and create a culture where the voice of everyone in the staff team, including students on placement, is valued and heard.
“Those responsible for regulation and support (currently Ofsted and the Local Authority) must make sure that their staff are fully aware of the nature of sexual offending.
“It is also important that both Ofsted and the Local Authority are fully aware of the way in which organisations should work together to prevent the sexual abuse of children for whom they have a responsibility.
“In this case there were obvious pointers that should have raised the alarm, yet both Ofsted and the Local Authority failed to recognise them and respond appropriately in a coordinated manner.”