A teenager has said ‘flirty’ Instagram messages she allegedly received from her headteacher ‘gave her nightmares’.
Cat Hughes, 16, spoke out after it was alleged Ruthin School principal Toby Belfield, 47, had sent dozens of messages to schoolgirls.
The married headmaster at the £35,000-a-year boarding school in Denbighshire, Wales, apparently told Cat she was ‘cute’ and ‘flirting is fine’ when communicating with her online in 2018 when she was 15.
In September, a North Wales Live investigation exposed messages sent by Mr Belfield on social media to female pupils in which he talked about breasts, virginity and sexuality.
He could not be identified at the time due to legal reasons and following a safeguarding investigation involving police and council officials when the messages first came to light last May, he was allowed to keep his job at the school.
No criminal investigation was instigated.
Cat said at first she felt ‘important’ when he messaged later became uncomfortable with the interactions.
She told North Wales Live: ‘Two days after my 16th birthday, the messages started getting more flirty.
‘He started conversations about relationships and boyfriends saying things like “should I be jealous” and how I would “make a terrible girlfriend”.
She added: ‘I’ve had nightmares about Mr Belfield. This whole thing has ruined my life.’
At one point Cat decided to deactivate her account to escape Mr Belfield’s ‘relentless’ messages.
She said she did not block him because she was worried he’d take it personally and she would lose her place at the school.
The North Wales Live investigation, in which a second ex-pupil came forward, prompted a further safeguarding probe and both the school inspectorate Estyn and the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) carried out unannounced inspections.
A damning CIW report, published this week, found pupils were ‘at risk of harm’ amid a senior management culture that was both ‘controlling’ and ‘autocratic’.
The school’s governing Council of Management (COM) also failed to rigorously apply safeguarding procedures and a raft of ‘serious shortfalls’ were identified.
North Wales Live has hundreds of screen shots of messages that Belfield sent to three different youngsters on social media sites and Whatsapp between 2017 and May last year.
After the CIW report was published, a spokesman from Denbighshire council said: ‘It is for the school to address the findings and recommendations of this and any other inspection reports.
‘We continue to remain concerned.’
As a private school Ruthin is outside Denbighshire Council control.
The issue was also raised in the Senedd with Plaid Cymru AM, Llyr Gruffydd branding it ‘wholly unacceptable’ and calling for ‘heads to roll.’
Referring to the CIW report, Ruthin School said: ‘The Council of Management at Ruthin School was already carrying out root and branch strategic review at the time of the inspection, and that work is continuing.
‘We welcome the timely publication of the latest Care Inspectorate of Wales report, and are ensuring the observations and action points contained in it are fully addressed as part of our review.
‘The work we are doing now will ensure the school’s governance and operational procedures continue to keep pace with modern requirements.’
It is understood Mr Belfield has not been seen at the school since the new term began, but the school has not responded to questions as to whether his position is tenable.