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Savile inquiry to investigate 1970s visits to special school
AN INVESTIGATION has been launched to determine whether paedophile Jimmy Savile preyed on severely disabled children in Oxfordshire in the 1970s.
Penhurst School in Chipping Norton was yesterday revealed as one of more than 20 children’s homes and schools where the disgraced entertainer, pictured, may have struck.
The special school, which shut down last year with the loss of 140 jobs, catered for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Former school governor Jo Graves last night said she was shocked by the news.
She added: “It aggrieves me to think it could have happened but it has happened elsewhere.”
The Chipping Norton town councillor said residents had raised money for the school and many had worked there, adding: “It was held very dear and very highly regarded.
“It never entered my head to think he would have been round here and that would have happened.”
Penhurst School, pictured in 1992
The allegations revealed by the Department for Education yesterday came after a review of documents by the Metropolitan Police.
The Chipping Norton investigation will be run by Action for Children – the charity which ran the New Street school under its former name the National Children’s Home.
Spokesman Huw Beale said: “We are committed to keeping children safe and have robust measures in place to do so.
“We are co-operating with the Department for Education and will conduct a full investigation into Savile’s possible visits to our former school in the 1970s.”
He added: “We want to reassure people who may be concerned that there has been no allegation of any improper conduct.”
Trevor Cowlett, 81, helped to raise more than £200,000 for the school with the Kennington Choir. The conductor yesterday said: “I am absolutely shocked. I am very saddened if it is true.”
Former Penhurst headteacher Stephen Bajdala-Brown said he knew of no mention of Savile in the school’s archives, adding: “You would think with someone of his celebrity there would at least be a photograph.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday told Parliament human rights lawyer Lucy Scott-Moncrieff will oversee the investigations at 21 institutions.
He said: “I have asked Lucy Scott-Moncrieff to ensure that investigating organisations take all practicable steps to establish what happened and why at the time of the incidents, and any lessons there might be to inform current safeguarding practice in our schools and children’s homes.”
Alan Collins, abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which represents 140 of Savile’s victims, said: “We welcome any investigation that will uncover further how widespread Savile’s abuse was. It is important that we know exactly when, where and how this predatory paedophile committed his horrific crimes.”
- Anyone with information should call Action for Children on 0800 980 4502.