William Henry Smith School agrees abuse settlement

school

William Henry Smith School is a residential boys only school that takes pupils who have learning disabilities and emotional or behaviour problems.

An out-of-court settlement has been reached for 30 former pupils of a West Yorkshire school who claim they were abused there.

The alleged abuse took place at William Henry Smith School in Brighouse in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Nobody has been convicted in connection with the allegations. Though some have faced court and been cleared

Over the years officials in Brighouse and Halifax have done their utmost to keep the abuse in the school a secret. Former employees of the Smith Foundation have enjoyed the protection that officials in Brighouse and Halifax have given to the various child abusers working in the school throughout the 60s until the 1990s.

The social services and the police have known for years that children were being physically and sexually abused in the school and stood back and did nothing to help the victim’s even though there was clear evidence that officials knew that children were systematically abused over the years

When one victim was at the school, which takes pupils with behavioural problems, he said the circumstances were often so bad that he ran away on numerous occasions.

He said children were treated like sub human beings.

“There were times when we were made to have a cold shower at 2am then stand outside in the school yard,” he said. “We had to live in hand-me downs and it is time that people knew what was happening. Everything we had was very basic but the school was given funding of around 100,000 a year but the money did not benefit the children. At times we were going round in rags. Some of the kids were sexually abused. We were dragged about by members of staff.”

“The school had two sides to it – one they wanted the public to see and the other where they didn’t want people to know what was happening to the children and how they were ill treated,” he said.

“One time my face was smashed into a sink in the school yard toilets and then I was forced to sign a document to cover up what had happened,” he said.

He used to hide in the loft at his home when it was time to go back to the school and on one occasion his grandfather took him back along with his mother.

“A member of staff started punching me. My grandfather, who was 55 at the time, was so angry that he hit him back.

“A letter was sent to my mother asking my grandfather to keep away from the school. It seems it was all right for staff to beat children but not for an adult to step in and take similar action.”

The school governors said they were “saddened” by the allegations which “did not lead to any convictions” and “no admissions of liability” were made.

Alan Collins from Pannone Solicitors, representing the former pupils, said he had secured an undisclosed sum to be paid to his clients.

The residential school for boys with special educational needs opened in 1961.

‘Measure of justice’

“From the victims’ perspective it’s recognition that they were harmed while they were pupils at the school, and that for them is the most important factor,” Mr Collins said.

“They have been engaged in a long fight going back many years to try and get justice.

“The police investigated, there was a criminal prosecution that did not result in a conviction, so the only course left to them was to bring this civil case.

“We finally got a measure of justice for them.”

The statement from the school’s governors added: “We consider the welfare and care of every child and young person essential.”

It also said the school had “been judged outstanding by Ofsted in recent times”.

William Henry Smith School - Brighouse