A school near York whose child protection employee sexually abused 20 children says it has upgraded its safeguarding measures.

Alexander Ralls, 47, was jailed earlier this week for 44 offences, all committed while working at Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate (QE) at Thorpe Underwood, north of York.

Over a period of nearly four years he had sexually assaulted and abused pupils at the school and on trips for pupils to foreign countries, Bradford Crown Court heard.

He held child protection and safeguarding roles at the school and is the second man in four years to be convicted of sexual crimes against pupils at the school. In 2021, the school’s former owner Brian Richard Martin was convicted of offences committed years before Ralls’ crimes.

In a statement the school said: “We would like to start by fully and sincerely expressing our heartfelt sorrow and regret to the victims of former employee Alexander Ralls.

“Our safeguarding practices are always under review to ensure that we offer the best care possible, using the most up to date methods of good practice.

“Given that Mr Ralls’ offending took place years ago, there have been significant improvements in safeguarding practices, both at QE and at a national level, during the intervening period. This means that the circumstances which led to Mr Ralls being able to commit his offences cannot be replicated.”

Bradford Crown Court heard that Ralls was dismissed for gross misconduct after he admitted hugging a pupil and giving her medical treatment without appropriate chaperoning.

At his trial this year he was convicted of more serious conduct towards the pupil.

Judge Kirstie Watson said the school did not contact police and officers did not start investigating Ralls until another victim contacted them.

But the school statements said that during its internal investigation into Ralls before his dismissal, the police were informed through a local authority officer and “it was confirmed to us that the police were supportive of our actions".

It had also co-operated fully with the police investigation that led to Ralls’ convictions.

The school said it had improved reporting procedures for parents, pupils and staff, adding: “Should disclosures be made, these are always followed up using the necessary internal or external channels, whatever action is appropriate in that situation.”

It had also overhauled its students’ welfare and wellbeing structures, which include child protection and safeguarding, and senior staff and the Collegiate Board all have regular safeguarding training.

The most recent Independent Schools Inspectorate report on QE issued after a routine inspection stated: “Procedures for safeguarding are fully adhered to across the setting. Staff undertake regular safeguarding training, and they are highly aware of the actions to be followed if there is cause for concern. Consequently this ensures a safe environment for children.”