The headteacher of a Welsh private school sent dozens of flirtatious messages to schoolgirls as young as 15.

Ruthin School principal Toby Belfield sent messages to female pupils on social media in which he talked about breasts, virginity and sexuality.

Mr Belfield, once called 'Britain's strictest headteacher for his stance on sickness and pupil relationships, also sent a private message to a girl joking about expelling her if he found out where her secret tattoo was.

North Wales Live reported that the married 47-year-old kept his job at the £35,000-a-year boarding school when the messages first came to light last May after a safeguarding investigation involving police and council officials.

A  damning CIW report into the school, published earlier 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.

In its report the CIW said "recent safeguarding concerns and a failure by the COM to ensure that all staff understand and follow a professional code of conduct that protects them and the young people in their care, has resulted in young people being placed at risk of harm."

The school said it was carrying out a "root and branch" review of its procedures in light of the scandal.

North Wales Live has seen 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.

He says he likes women "small and petite" and asks one student if she has an eating disorder because she is a "thin girl" before going on to tell her she looks good.

Mr Belfield also discusses one pupil's virginity and suggests another may be a lesbian and calls for controls on pregnancy - saying women who cannot properly look after a baby should be deported, sterilised or even shot.

He also brags about being in the media for his controversial rules and methods, which have hit the headlines over the years.

Belfield sparked fury in 2015 when he claimed students with the Welsh language “forced upon them” will become “educationally weaker” than their English peers.

In 2017, the University of Cambridge maths graduate couldn't make the numbers add up and was looking to expel students to make room because the school was over subscribed.

Outlining a strict set of rules, he said he would kick out students after “carefully examining” their behaviour," and wouldn't tolerate girls who "look like they are going to a nightclub", "pathetic" students pretending to be ill, or anyone who smoked or drank alcohol - even if of age.

He later came up with the solution of housing them in portable cabins.

In January 2018, we reported how Belfield warned pupils he would give them a "worse reference" for university if they are in a relationship because he "strongly disapproves" of pupils being involved with each other.

He quickly backtracked on his threats and said he would not "hamper students' chances" if they did have a girlfriend or boyfriend.

After the CIW report was published, a spokesman from  Denbighshire council said: “Ruthin School is an independent establishment that is answerable to the Welsh Government.  

"It is not a local education authority school, therefore it is has no accountability to the local authority and the council has absolutely no say on how the school is run.

"That is purely a matter for the school and its own regulators.

“However safeguarding children and adults is a matter for the council and its partners and we have previously raised concerns about safeguarding issues at the school which led to an investigation.

"It is for the school to address the findings and recommendations of this and any other inspection reports. 

“We continue to remain concerned.” 

Children's Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland said: "All pupils, whether they are at state school or a private one, have the right to be safe and as Commissioner, I will ensure with the Welsh Government that adequate procedures are in place to ensure anyone working with or caring for children, in any setting, understands and complies with their responsibilities for keeping children safe.”

The issue was also raised in the Senedd with Plaid Cymru AM, Llyr Gruffydd branding it "wholly unacceptable" and calling for "heads to roll."

What Ruthin School says

Referring to the CIW report, the 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.”

Last September, a spokeswoman said: "The police, having taken part in a safeguarding investigation, decided to take no action.

"The school gave its full co-operation to the authorities throughout the process, and commissioned an independent inquiry once the external investigations were concluded.

"That is now complete, and appropriate action taken to address the situation.

“We have clearly defined duties of care and obligations to confidentiality to everyone here, staff, pupils and parents.

"We take those responsibilities extremely seriously, and for that reason we will never discuss or comment on anything that would place us in breach of them.”

In November Ruthin School was named the second highest achieving independent school in Wales and 45th in the UK, according to The Sunday Times Schools Guide 2020.

It followed record breaking exam results in 2019.

Ruthin School today refused to respond publicly about the naming of Mr Belfield.

North Wales Police Detective Superintendent Gareth Evans said: “North Wales Police took part in the safeguarding process with the local authority, and the recommendations from that were passed to the independent school to implement.”