A FORMER secondary school headteacher has said she suspected her pupils were being targeted and groomed for sex in Banbury in the 1980s and ’90s.
Anita Higham, Banbury School principal from 1985 to 1998, made the comments after six men – aged between 19 and 21 – were accused of abusing young teenage girls in the town from 2011 to this year.
This has brought back memories for Mrs Higham of concerns she had during her time at Banbury High School.
She said: “They were men driving cars with blacked-out windows and they would encourage the girls to get in the back.
“I do think some of them were being groomed at the time. But people did not talk about grooming back then. With hindsight I do think they were being groomed.
“It seemed obvious when at lunchtime a car would come and collect people. And in those days there were lots of different exits from the school as there was not a fence all around the premises.
“The men driving the cars, I would have thought, were in their 20s. They must have been older than 17 because they were driving.
“They drove expensive cars and so I reasoned they had likely acquired them through the world of drugs.”
“When I confronted some of the girls they usually responded with silence. My hope, if they were with their mothers, was that they would go home and have a conversation about it. I can’t say I remember if it worked.
“But what I do remember was at the time it was very difficult to get anyone in the social services interested, or the local policeman.”
Thames Valley Police refused to comment on the former headteacher’s remarks yesterday.
Earlier this year the Oxford Mail reported investigations into child sex exploitation had cost the force more than £3m since 2011.
It came after seven members of an Oxford child sex ring were jailed for a total of 95 years last year after they groomed, drugged and abused vulnerable girls living in council care.
Det Chief Insp Joe Kidman, senior investigating officer on Operation Bullfinch, said the force now had a better understanding of child sex exploitation.
The Kingfisher team of police and social workers was set up in 2012 to work with victims and potential victims of sexual exploitation.