Northways School: Leeds police investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse as former pupil speaks out

A specialist police team is investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse at a former Leeds school after reports were filed by several of its pupils.

By Abbey Maclure
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 4:45 am

Northways School, near Wetherby, was a community special school for boys aged 11-19 years old who were deemed to have behavioural problems.

Managed by Leeds City Council, it had a roll of 52 boys and a boarding facility for around 12 pupils before the site in Willow Lane, Clifford, was closed down in 1997.

Now West Yorkshire Police has confirmed detectives are investigating allegations of physical and sexual assaults at the school in the 1990s.

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The former Northways School in Willow Lane, Clifford, which was closed down in 1997 (Photo: Roy Fox)

A force spokeperson said: "Officers from Leeds District Safeguarding Unit are investigating allegations of physical and sexual assaults in relation to the former Northways School in the 1990s."

The Yorkshire Evening Post has also spoken exclusively to one of the former pupils who reported experiencing both physical and sexual abuse during his time at Northways.

Mr P, who does not wish to disclose his full name, initially joined the school as a 10-year-old day pupil in 1992. He later became a boarder after his travel funding was revoked.

He said at least seven other pupils and four former staff members have now come forward to report abuse at the school in the 1990s, with Leeds District Safeguarding Unit leading the investigation.

West Yorkshire Police has confirmed detectives are investigating allegations of physical and sexual assaults at the school in the 1990s (Photo: Roy Fox)

“I have a friend who is a teacher and they told me I needed to go forward," Mr P said.

"It's been stressful, I've had sleepless nights and nightmares - I've had to be put on sleeping tablets.

"There is a sense of relief that they're listening to me now, finally."

Mr P, who is now 40, said he feels fortunate that he was able to rejoin mainstream education in 1995.

"I suppose I’ve been one of the lucky ones," he added.

"I managed to pull my act together and get myself back into mainstream school.

"I've always suffered from flashbacks from it but I’ve kept most of it to myself because I'm that kind of person.

"I don't like talking about it because it brings back bad memories, not only things that have happened to me but things that have happened to the other boys when I was there.”

Northways School was previously investigated in the wake of Jimmy Savile's death, after it emerged that he had sexually abused hundreds of victims across the country.

The Operation Yewtree investigation into his crimes was contacted in 2013 by a former senior teacher at Northways who raised concerns that pupils had visited Savile's Roundhay flat.

However, an independent report conducted for the council the following year did not establish any association between Saville and Northways.

The allegations now under investigation are not believed to have any connection with Savile.

As well as reporting his experiences to the police, Mr P is taking civil action against the council in relation to the potential destruction of school records.

He said he has received information that pupils' records were unlawfully destroyed before the school was closed.

A council spokesperson said: "Leeds City Council is aware of the investigation of allegations of physical and sexual assaults in relation to the former Northways School, in Clifford, near Wetherby, in the 1990s, and is supporting the police with their enquiries."

In the meantime, Mr P hopes his story will encourage victims of historical abuse to speak out and not suffer in silence.

He said: "Don't hold it in anymore, speak about it. It has helped me, I feel better in myself because it's all out now."

As the police investigation continues, anyone with concerns or information is asked to contact PC 5440 Walkin at Leeds District Safeguarding Unit via 101 and quote crime reference 13210367793.

Information can also be shared via the online chat facility at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/101livechat.

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