Headteacher who used funds to build ‘sex dungeon’ at Sawtry school, could have been caught sooner

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A disgraced headteacher who used funds to build a “sex dungeon” alongside his office could have been caught sooner, a report has suggested.

James Stewart was executive principal at Sawtry Village Academy until 2014 when the Department for Education launched an investigation into his running of the school.

Ex Sawtry Headteacher James Stewart arriving at court earlier this year

Ex Sawtry Headteacher James Stewart arriving at court earlier this year

He was convicted of fraud and misconduct in public office for offences between 2011 and 2014, and was jailed for four years in October 2017.

RELATED: ‘Dramatic transformation’ was needed at Sawtry school after headteacher used funds to build ‘sex dungeon’ damaging the education of a community for many years

A report about the case titled Lessons Learned - Sawtry Village Academy, which was prepared in response to issues raised in the criminal case, will go before a meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee on Tuesday.

It said a whistleblower tried to report concerns in 2011, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

“Staff state that an attempt was made by a former colleague to blow the whistle to the local authority in 2011,” the report said.

“This attempt was unsuccessful and allegedly the whistleblower was told it was not possible to take the concerns further without the support of the entire leadership team or the chair of governors; this was felt to be impossible due to concerns about collusion.”

The report said this advice “was not in line with local whistleblowing processes at the time”, and it was “not clear why such advice would have been given”.

It noted that fraud and misconduct at the school took place “over a significant period of time”, but that, since joining the Cambridge

Meridian Academies Trust in 2015, “significant action” has been taken “to ensure this issue does not occur again”.

This included making staff aware of the whistleblowing policy, and displaying posters with details of people to contact.

“Staff commented that they would now feel significantly more confident in blowing the whistle,” the report said.

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara raised the case during Education questions in the House of Commons last year.

He said the school had been left in “serious financial difficulty”, and that this was “not least because of the activities of its former head which included building a sex dungeon alongside his office for his private use”.

RELATED: ‘Dramatic transformation’ was needed at Sawtry school after headteacher used funds to build ‘sex dungeon’ damaging the education of a community for many years