Uckfield Community Technology College has issued a statement after the conclusion of the Chris Howarth trial on Friday.
The statement reads:
“The College is deeply shocked to learn the outcome of Chris Howarth’s trial and our thoughts are immediately with the victims and their families, who have shown tremendous courage and strength in bringing the case to court; it is only hoped that with support they are able to rebuild their lives from this point forward.
“Chris Howarth retired from the College eight years ago in 2007. As a teacher, as a member of the clergy and as a significant member of the Uckfield Community, he was trusted by many people.
“This makes the betrayal of trust by Chris with two vulnerable young boys so shocking and abhorrent. It is going to take time for the close community of Uckfield to come to terms with the breach in trust and the terrible abuse that has taken place.
“Many of you will know Chris personally and it may be that he has played a large part in your life by performing baptisms, marriages and funeral services for friends and family.
“The emotional anguish for those of our community who are in this position will be significant for some time to come.
‘Never any concerns during his time at college’
“The Strategic Leadership Team and the Pastoral Team at the College are working closely with local agencies and the Church to support anyone within the Uckfield community who is affected by the outcome of the trial.
“During the many years that Chris Howarth worked at the College there was never any concern or allegation made against him and it will take some time for the community of Uckfield to come to terms with what has been disclosed.
“The College has always maintained the very highest standards of safeguarding policies and procedures and these are regularly checked and scrutinised by East Sussex County Council and OfSTED.”
“Previous OfSTED reports have identified the following:
Inspection Report 2005
‘All staff are thoroughly trained in procedures for dealing with child protection issues and assessing risks. The pastoral team is very effective in dealing with the needs of individual students, making full use of strong links with external agencies. Support for vulnerable students is very good.’
‘Students develop a very good sense of social awareness through the college’s strong moral framework.’
‘The college takes pains to provide a safe environment. The site is very thoroughly monitored to keep it safe, both in terms of supervision of activities and also through regular checking of its physical condition.’
Inspection Report 2009
‘Students say they feel safe and secure and are confident that the rare cases of bullying or other forms of harassment are dealt with promptly and sensitively. Their views were very strongly reflected in the parent questionnaire responses.’
‘The care, guidance and support provided to students is outstanding and a major factor in the success of the college. In all years, students feel safe, secure and happy and recognise that the college considers their welfare to be a top priority . . . . . . . . Vulnerable children receive very thoughtful and carefully planned advice and guidance.’
‘Procedures to safeguard students, including the safe use of modern technologies, are very rigorous. An extremely high proportion of parentsindicated that they were very satisfied with safeguarding arrangements in the College.’
Inspection Report 2013
‘Teaching is good with an increasing proportion of lessons that are outstanding. Relationships are strong and teachers show considerable concern for the welfare and well-being of students in their care.’
‘Students behave well and have positive attitudes to their learning. They are confident and enthusiastic. They say they feel safe in school.’
‘There are strong arrangements to secure the safety and well-being of students, especially those potentially at risk of underachieving.’
The college statement also says:
‘Responses to Parent View and the college’s own questionnaires corroborate parents’ and carers’ confidence in the college and verify that their children feel happy, safe and well looked after.’
‘Safeguarding children is always our first priority. College staff are trained annually on our Safeguarding policies and practices and we remain vigilant at all times. Crucially, we always foster a culture in the College that encourages students to talk to a member of staff if they have any worries or concerns.
‘If you have any concerns moving forward following the outcome of the trial, or if you would like to know more about College procedures that are in place, then please do not hesitate to contact us.’