The Vatican has ordered an inquiry into a series of child abuse cases at a school in Ealing, west London.

St Benedict's School, which is part of Ealing Abbey in west London, is the main focus of the allegations. The inquiry follows an investigation by The Times newspaper, which exposed four decades of child abuse St Benedict's School.

The apostolic visitation, as the inquiry is known, is reported to be the first of its kind in Britain. A report from the visit will be sent back to the Vatican for possible action

Following further abuse claims, a team sent by the Vatican - conducted by Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and Father Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation - visited the connected Earling Abbey where some monks accused of abuse still live.

In 2009 Father David Pearce, the former head of St Benedict's School, was jailed for eight years for abusing five students after an investigation into the "devil in a dog collar," who admitted carrying out the attacks between 1972 and 2007.

"The effective safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic Church and Ealing Abbey's safeguarding policies and procedures formed part of the remit of the apostolic visitation," a spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster said.

Earlier this month police revealed they were hunting a Catholic cleric over allegations of child abuse reported back to when he taught at St Benedict's.

Father Laurence Soper, 80, did not answer bail last week and is now though to be in a monastery in Rome.